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Summer Internationals – Ireland Fare Better Than Most In Argentina

England-Rugby-Ball

Not fluid flying rugby, no real flash and certainly a few mistakes to rectify. But Ireland do stand as one of only two Northern Hemisphere teams to have started their summer tour with a win, and they stood up to a far more organised unit than Scotland that’s for sure. We’ll have a quick look at how the other games panned out but now let’s see what was learned from the Joe Schmidt experiment.

As is always the case on a rugby pitch, some players had more of an onus on them to impress in their respective position than others. Some notable names in this category this tour are Darren Cave, Simon Zebo, Robbie Diack and Iain Henderson. Cave stands out from the rest in that filling Brian O’Driscoll’s place in the team is probably the most daunting task any player could be given. As has been maintained religiously by all involved however, he is there to show what he can do at 13, not to emulate anyone else. And do that he did, rising above the other mentioned players to be one of the standouts of the match, albeit more so through being solid if not spectacular. For the rest, Zebo in particular looks like he may not have helped his Irish career under Schmidt all that much. Not that he had a bad display in any particular sense, but when trying to muscle out a fully fit Dave Kearney and Andrew Trimble, not to mention Tommy Bowe, you need more than just solid. Schmidt omiting him from the Six Nations has maybe heaped an unfair amount of pressure on the Munster winger, but whatever the extremities of the surrounding issues, he hasn’t set anything alight with his game on Saturday.

Henderson and Diack, two Ulstermen (the latter via South Africa of course) who have constantly impressed in white got good runs on Saturday. Henderson, building on some impressive early caps, was solid and assuring though he will likely still remain backup to Devin Toner. Diack, on his first cap, was also spot on solid but a few incidents, such as his white line fever for a butchered early try oppurtunity, will stand against him leapfrogging any of Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony or Jamie Heaslip, though the former two have an injury record that may work against them in this regard going forward.

As for the Pumas, well they certainly played above their amateur tag. At one point early on they looked like they could even swing the game against the visitors as they took a one point lead, and did so while playing with 14. You can be certain that they will present themselves even more ready willing and able next week, and with the news that Schmidt seems ready to make up to seven changes for that final game, Argentina stand even more of a chance. All in all, not a bad day at the office for either side, though we maybe would have preferred of course to see the odd stand out performance or moment from some of the fresh faces, just to dangle the World Cup carrot even more tantalizingly.

Argentina 17 – 29 Ireland

Across the rest of the weekend’s fixtures there was certainly less for European fans to get excited, although the highlight was certainly New Zealand V England which had every vibe of the New Zealand/Ireland fixture last November, though unfortunately for England fans, had the same ending too with New Zealand clinching it at the death. Australia V France was just a comedy of errors that was painful for the French at times, though the introduction of Morgan Parra in the closing stages coinciding with two French tries and a more respectful scoreline really cannot be ignored by Phillippe Saint-Andre for next weekend. I would love to comment on the South Africa V World XV game but it was just a little too weird, though highly entertaining nonetheless with South Africa running out victors after a bit of a 60 minute arm wrestle of sorts. Finally, USA V Scotland may have been hindered by some shoddy refereeing, but there were positive moments from both sides, and oddly I have to commend the American commentary team, seemingly gone are the days you could hear turning pages in the background as a random sports pundit tried to figure out rugby as he goes along. Onwards and upwards.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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