Ireland against Argentina is a fixture that never fails to disappoint. Los Pumas have a weird obsession of inflicting severe pain to Irish fans’ hearts. This is especially true at World Cups, whether it be in France in 1999 and 2007, or England in 2015.
Argentina loves beating Ireland on a big stage, yes. In saying that, Argentina have never beaten Ireland in an autumn international. Yes, never! So after the Irish heroics of last week against the All Blacks, is this the perfect opportunity for the light blue and white to gain their first-ever win in Dublin?
Irish must fear the ‘2020 hangover’ effect
There is one thing both sides have in common. A recent victory over the All Blacks. Therefore, if Andy Farrell needs a case study as to why one win over the All Blacks doesn’t mean success, it is right in front of him.
After a year of no rugby, Argentina famously defeated the All Blacks 25-15, in a game that all Argentine rugby fans celebrated. It appeared to be the final step taken, ahead of more success for Los Pumas. But, what followed, was disappointment and underperformance. So, what went wrong after that victory?
Following that win in 2020, two draws against Australia were games where Argentina could and should have won. One movement or kick, could have changed the fortune of the side yet, a lingering hangover seemed to dull their impetuous. In turn, Los Pumas fans were left feeling that the 2020 Rugby Championship was ‘the one that got away’. Without South Africa competing, they certainly had an opportunity to have won the Tri Nations!
There is no doubt this has mentally affected the Argentine player’s performances over the following 12 months, as opportunities like that don’t come around often. A year on and Argentina has just ended a losing drought stringing back to July, where they suffered a whitewash of defeats in the Rugby Championship.
Recent performances were well under par and they shipped a bucket load of points. A clear hangover from 2020. Something that Ireland must prepare for, as they too lost momentum after their historic 2018 first home victory over New Zealand – the 2019 RWC quarterfinal being the prime example.
Is that theory or reality? Only time will tell although, Farrell is one international coach that studies other side’s wins/losses towards his own team’s learnings and self-motivation.
Autumn 2021 the time for Los Pumas pride to shine
One disappointing campaign against the two best sides in the world plus, a rejuvenated Australian team on home soil, does not make Argentina a bad side. As a result, this Autumn International test window became essential to getting Los Pumas back on track.
Argentina had a poor record leading up to November, with only one win in seven leading into the autumn nations series. But unfortunately, it did not start like they had planned on.
Starting with a nine-point loss to France – a game which was in the balance for large parts. A loss true yet, it reinstalled faith that the Los Pumas train is back on the right tracks. Followed up perfectly though, with a convincing performance over their northern hemisphere wooden spoon friends Italy; 16-37. The group’s first win in 2021 was finally experienced, and rugby observers will see this as huge motivation and perfect timing ahead of their final International for the season.
There is no doubt though, Argentina prefers to be the underdog against Ireland.
Meet Los Pumas 2021 current squad
Historically, Argentina pride itself on their pack, and this team is no different. The likes of Tomás Lavanini, Pablo Matera, and Marcos Kremer (see main photo) are big ball carriers. The old school types. Kremer is the youngest of the trio at 24 years of age, the best is still yet to come.
In turn, the pack allows the outside backs to flourish, no more so than Emiliano Boffelli.
Head coach Mario Ledesma has instilled faith into Boffelli, namely as his number one full back. Solidity at the back is vital for any side, and it is something Ledesma has worked on in recent years, as his attacking game has always been a clear strength. Now signed with Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship, he will almost certainly kick on in his development. A real one to watch as he enters his prime years.
A vital link between the forwards and backs, is Tomás Cubelli. The diminutive scrum-half missed the entirety of the recent Rugby Championship. Now, since he has returned, the team’s flow has followed. Coincidence? I think not. Currently signed with a resurgent Biarritz; who are on a very similar comeback story. Cubelli has Super Rugby experience, to match with his 72 caps for Los Pumas and a representative career dating back to 2008.
He and his teammates will aim to build on their last match, as well as using past wins over Ireland as a foundation to success this Sunday.
History between the sides, since first victory in 1999
Historically, the pair have met 18 times in total, with Ireland coming out on top: 12 wins for Ireland, to Argentina’s six victories.
1999 was the first time they met in a Rugby World Cup (RWC), and it wouldn’t be the last either. In the 1999 World Cup warm-up games at Lansdowne Road, Ireland beat Argentina in a famous 32-28 win. But one must be honest with themself. Does anyone remember RWC warm-up games?
The day that is more fondly remembered is the quarterfinal play-off game when the only try that day was scored by Diego Luis Albanese, with the Pumas coming out on top 28-24.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. In the 2003 World Cup the Irish served up their dish winning narrowly 16-15. An Alan Quinlan try and the boot of Humphreys, as well as a key penalty from Ronan O’Gara, was enough to scrape by.
The rivalry doesn’t stop there. In 2007, after a rousing, two-game home series against Ireland, the hosts won both matches. Later in the World Cup tournament, Argentina hammered Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland 30-15 in RWC pool play. It was a game remembered for a couple of booming dropkicks from Juan Martín Hernández, alongside the silky skills of legendary stand-off Felipe Contepomi.
Over the next seven years, five wins over Argentina stamped Irish authority, as the superior Tier One nation – a time when Los Pumas’ players were spread too ‘far and wide’ across the rugby globe, and they could not gel during key match-ups; against Ireland and notably, against sides like New Zealand.
But when they put their resources together, Argentina then produced one of their greatest ever performances and dismantled Ireland 43-20 in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff. The image of a flying Juan Imhoff is engrained in a lot of Irish brains, and many are afraid it may never disappear.
And now, most recently in the autumns of both 2017 and 2018, Ireland beat Argentina to regain the balance of control in their rivalry so, after a trip down memory lane, it is clear that Argentina has been a real bogey team for Ireland. It seems that Los Pumas are like a rash that you [the Irish] just can’t get rid of. On the big nights, they can sure turn it on. Will that history of ‘turning up’ against the Irish continue this Sunday?
This weekend #IREvARG – the Last Word on Los Pumas
If you have taken anything from this article, let it be this: never rule out Argentina. They are a team, who like Ireland last week, are one big win away from getting their World Cup ambitions back on track.
On the flip side, if Ireland continue as they left off against the All Blacks, then Los Pumas could be in for a long afternoon. Ireland has begun imposing their own style on the opposition, rather than being reactive. For everything that the Argentine men bring, if they cannot adjust to combat the Irish play, then the hosts may continue their party from last weekend.
Sport moves on quickly, so winners one week can become ‘soul searchers’ the next. Los Pumas famous win over the All Blacks in 2020 is a prime example, and Ireland cannot rest on their laurels after a third win against the All Blacks.
Sunday is a must-win for both sides.
Ireland v Argentina – Sunday, November 21. Aviva Stadium, Dublin
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images