DUBLIN — Ireland will be almost at full strength for the game against Argentina at Lansdowne Road on Saturday in a bid for a sweep of autumn test rugby wins.
Joe Schmidt tested the depth of his squad against Fiji last weekend, only to struggle to a 23-20 win. He’s restored most of the side which crushed South Africa 38-3 two weeks ago.
Robbie Henshaw was in line to start in the center alongside his former Connacht clubmate Bundee Aki, but picked up a hamstring injury in training, so Chris Farrell comes in. Both centers will earn just their second caps.
Adam Byrne will debut on the right wing. It’s the second time Schmidt has given him his debut, having done so at Leinster.
“Adam Byrne has given us the confidence to include him,” Schmidt said. “It will be a challenging day for the outside backs, three of the four only have five caps between them.”
Marshalling that backline will be Jonathan Sexton, with Ian Keatley his deputy after Joey Carbery broke his wrist against Fiji.
In the pack, Devin Toner drops out, and 21-year-old lock James Ryan handed his first start.
The Pumas beat Ireland 43-20 in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarterfinals but revenge is not on the minds of the Irish.
“If we are looking two years backwards how do we go forwards? There is a real danger in looking too far back.” Schmidt said. “There are not that many guys from that match that are involved, maybe half a dozen. We will be a lot more focused on ourselves than on the Argentines.”
Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade described that World Cup win as one of his best moments, but agreed it has little relevance.
“(Ireland) is a totally different team,” he said. “It is one of the teams that has progressed most in the last three years. Ireland are a very hard team for you to break. It is a team with a very good scrum, very good set-piece, probably one of the hardest teams in the world.”
Argentina has three new faces from the side which beat Italy 31-15 last weekend. In the pack, Tomas Lezana is at No. 8 ahead of Juan Manuel Leguizamon. In the backline, Matias Moroni is at center in place of Matias Orlando, and on the right wing Bayonne’s Martin Moyano is preferred to Sebastian Cancelliere.
Argentina has won just twice in 2017, against Georgia and Italy. It lost all six in the Rugby Championship, and three to England.
“We are disappointed we didn’t get an important win against any top team so it will be excellent to finish the season with a win against Ireland. But with Ireland it might not be so easy, they are playing well,” Hourcade said.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Adam Byrne, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahoney, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best (captain), Cian Healy. Reserves: James Tracey, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Ian Keatley, Andrew Conway.
Argentina: Joacquin Tuculet, Ramiro Moyano, Matias Moroni, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Emiliano Boffelli, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Tomas Lezana, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy (captain), Santiago Garcia Botta. Reserves: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Enrique Pieretto, Guido Petti, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Gonzalo Bertanou, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Sebastian Cancelliere.