PERHAPS THE TABLES have already turned in the Ireland-Argentina rivalry.
The intense nature of the fixture has seemed to be nothing short of suffocating in the past decade, but after a year in which Argentina have rubbed shoulders with the world’s best three teams, it would be understandable if coming to face Ireland no longer felt quite so important.
In Ireland we’re still hurting from the events in the Parc des Princes over five years ago. The Pumas have moved on to bigger and better things.
For us, the name conjures up the same ill will as we feel for England, but without the regular meetings to dilute the fury of a local derby.
“Yeah, the people said that. But I don’t think so.”Juan Manuel Leguizamon says when asked about this game being ‘a derby’. “In the last few years, we played quite an amount of times, but I don’t feel it.”
Instead, the back row echoed the sentiment of Jamie Heaslip – an opponent he takes little time in calling “a great player” because ”I watch rugby” – in saying that this game is not a cup final, but just another fixture.
“We enjoy every international match. And this kind of match in Lansdowne Road is great to play. We used to have little time together, so now we enjoy every chance we have to play.”
The openside, who is currently plying his trade with Lyon in the Top 14, is unwilling to accept the suggestion that Ireland are currently a poor side. Perhaps it’s because the Pumas’ own win-loss ratio hasn’t set the world alight. But their results stand up to some close scrutiny, whereas the Irish story appears to get worse to further you dig.
Still, Leguizamon isn’t taking Declan Kidney’s men lightly: ”We don’t think that Ireland are not in good form, Ireland is always great team, one of the best in the world. They have a great attack, great forward pack and we know it’s going to be as tough as always.”
The searing pain of defeat, it seems, will drive on both teams.
“Every time that you lose, like we did last week, you are hurt. We know that we didn’t play well. We know that we failed against France. We didn’t do the things we prepared during the week. We would like to finish the tour doing things right.”
After a long hard inaugural season as an official recognised member of rugby’s top eight, the 29-year-old’s eyes widen at the mere suggestion of a victory to round off a pivotal year in his country’s sporting history.
“It would be awesome. We’re working to end this tour playing well and, obviously, winning. So it would be awesome if we can do that.”