THE TASK IS clear – defeat Argentina and forget all about the rankings ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’.
It is a good bet that Declan Kidney will stick with the men that dominated South Africa for 40 minutes before squandering Ireland’s fourth half-time lead in nine months.
Craig Gilroy featured prominently in training ground machinations at Carton House this morning and will be pushing either for a spot on the replacements bench or a double promotion to the 11 jersey in place of Andrew Trimble.
Eoin Reddan will resume training tomorrow and Tommy Bowe recovered significantly enough from the dead leg that kept him out of the Fiji game to take a full part in the day’s major fitness session.
The notable absentee was out-half Jonny Sexton who is being eased back into action following a groin strain sustained on Saturday.
Ireland team manager Mick Kearney confirmed that the plan was for Sexton to take a full part in Thursday morning training before the matchday 23 for the Argentina is named that afternoon.
If he does not pass muster, it seems likely that Ronan O’Gara will renew old rivalries with the Pumas with Paddy Jackson on the sub’s bench.
One of the most significant items to emerge from Ireland’s Tuesday press briefing came from forwards coach Anthony Foley.
When asked a question about the loss of ball-carriers Stephen Ferris and Sean O’Brien to the Irish back row, Foley’s response revealed the thinking of the coaching staff ahead of Saturday’s must-win match.
Foley told TheScore.ie there would be no problem with the Irish back row taking the fight to Argentina and name-checked the trio that started against South Africa, Jamie Heaslip, Peter O’Mahony and Chris Henry. He said:
In Pete, Chris and Jamie, they’re all ball carriers. It’s just a matter of creating opportunities for them to carry the ball.
Reflecting on the loss of two crucial players, in Ferris and O’Brien, Foley noted the size of their Argentine opponents and pointed out that there were ‘hopefully there will be space for whoever is in the back row this weekend to get some yardage’.
Irish captain Heaslip, he added, has ‘taken the squad by the scruff’ of the neck since the loss of Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell and ‘shown true leadership’.
That leadership will be crucial in a weekend that will begin with Ireland ranked seventh in the world and could finish with them anywhere from sixth to ninth.