Ireland secured their first series win in Argentina thanks to wins in Resistencia and Tucuman. Here are some of the talking points from the series...
Ireland’s set piece dominated that of Argentina, a side who are renowned for being tough up front. The second Test’s stats show that Ireland won 11 of their scrums and lost none, while Argentina won three, but lost two. The lineout tells a similar story, with Ireland winning 100% of their lineouts (13) and Argentina just 73.3% of theirs (won 11, lost four).
The tour has also provided much-needed ‘contact time’ for Joe Schmidt, who has got to know some new players in Argentina. The likes of Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Jack McGrath and Darren Cave were all among those who added to their limited international experience, and with a World Cup 15 months away, Joe Schmidt will be happy that some more Irish players have clocked up a few more Test miles.
They may have recorded their first Test wins in Argentina, but when assessing Ireland’s overall performance, it’s hard to claim they’ve flourished on the pitch this month. The team made plenty of handling errors and missed tackles in both Tests, and a slicker opposition would have capitalised on these mistakes, and made bigger dents in the score board. The players will have a holiday now after a long season, and the display in Tucuman showed they were certainly looking forward to it, if not desperately in need of a few weeks in the sun. Captain Paul O’Connell said: “We were disappointed with the performance. It was a similar story to last week with the errors, and it was frustrating. It was a very fast game and tough to play, physically it was quicker than last week. But they were sharper and looked more dangerous.”
World Cup fever
Both Ireland and Argentina are considering putting in bids for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and while it’s tremendous that the Pumas should want to host the sport’s showcase event, the stadiums that Ireland visited are not a world class standard as they are. The turf in Tucuman was in a better condition than that in Resistencia, but the players’ changing facilities were too small and dated to the point of impracticality, as was the size of both pitches. This could have compromised the safety of players had they been tackled into the concrete walls surrounding the ground. On the plus side, the hospitality of the Argentinians has been exceptional, as has the atmosphere on tour, and the Pumas and their fans would make fantastic hosts to the rugby world.
The concussion bin came into effect during Saturday’s game, as Johnny Sexton took a spell on the sidelines. He was replaced by Ian Madigan, who ended up seeing out the end of the game, while Sexton’s concussion was confirmed to the media after the match. Devin Toner also suffered a concussion, and was replaced by Iain Henderson at half-time. The head bin was first trialled in the Junior World Cup and Rugby Championship in accordance with the IRB’s pitch-side concussion assessment. A team or independent doctor, or referee, can call for a player to leave the pitch to be tested for concussion, at which point a decision will be made on whether or not he can return to the field of play.