Well, it was a much better, more polished performance by an Irish team, as they beat Fiji, last Saturday, 53-0. Although, the match was a non- cap international, and Fiji weren’t at their strongest, there were still some positives to take from the game.
The Irish team (branded an Ireland XV, it was really an Ireland B side) played very well, dominating the opposition in a way we haven’t seen all year. Several players put their names on the board for selection for tougher matches.
Craig Gilroy was the star, with a great performance, topped off by 3 tries. Fergus McFadden also played well, getting a brace. New boys Luke Marshall and Darren Cave also added to the score sheet, with Paddy Jackson kicking 5 of the conversions.
Unfortunately, there were several factors which took away from the performance. It wasn’t a strong Fijian side, with them suffering several injuries. They had also had to deal with the death of a former team-mate during the week.
The Fijians also were not happy with the fact that the IRFU had reduced the match to a non-cap game, and they were still shaken by their heavy loss to England last week. All in all, the Fijians just didn’t play well.
It wasn’t a vintage Fijian performance to watch. Pity, as they can be one of the most exciting team’s in the world. They’re kings of the Seven’s game, and can cause upsets in the 15 a-side version (they knocked Wales out of the 2007 World Cup).
Anyway, Ireland now faces Argentina, in the final game of their November series and it is a crucial game for the Irish team, for a number of reasons. A win is paramount for Ireland, and a good performance against a topped ranked team (Fiji are 14th) is also important.
I’d imagine Kidney will stick with roughly the same team that played South Africa, to face Argentina, with 1 or 2 changes. I think Gilroy should be selected on the wing ahead of Trimble, with McFadden coming in for D’Arcy.
I’d leave Zebo at full-back, give him more experience in the role, as he seems the most likely candidate. O’Gara should probably start the match, as Sexton is recovering from injury (maybe even have Paddy Jackson on the bench).
The pack will be sorely tested. Argentina can be just as destructive as South Africa, up front, so the forwards will need to be at their best. I’d leave the pack as they are, though certainly the line-out must be improved.
Argentina lost to France last week, 39-22, so they’ll want to make up for that. Argentina have been a real problem for Ireland in recent years, and we’ll need to be at our best to beat them.
Argentina (7th) are currently ranked ahead of us (we’re 8th), and a loss for us could knock us further down the table, which would make qualifying for the World Cup a much tougher ordeal. No bones about it. Ireland HAVE TO win this match.
It wasn’t a good weekend for any of the home nations. England lost to Australia, 20-14. They should have won the match, as Australia weren’t playing well, but they just couldn’t deliver the killer blow.
Scotland, after doing very well against New Zealand the week before, lost to South Africa, 21-10. Wales had the worst of it, losing to Samoa, 26-19. The Welsh are in a slump, having lost to Argentina the week before.
The Welsh won the Grand Slam last year, but are showing none of that winning form, with the worst player affected being the captain, Sam Warburton. They’ve been worse than Ireland have been, and there injury problems aren’t nearly so bad.
Of the top European teams, only France have shown an improvement, beating Argentina last week, and crushing Australia the week before. After their disappointing Six Nations performances, this could be a return to form for the French.
England will go up against South Africa this weekend, kind of pointless in my view as they faced the Springboks in a 3 test series during the summer. They face a much daunter prospect when they go up against New Zealand the week after.
Wales will face New Zealand this weekend, and will at least want to match Scotland’s performance against the All Blacks, if not do one better. A Welsh win would really shake up the rankings, and be there first over New Zealand in nearly 60 years!