CARDIFF, Wales (AP) Argentina is planning to target Jonny Sexton in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against Ireland on Sunday – but it’s nothing to do with the Irish playmaker’s suspect injury status.
Sexton – Europe’s premier flyhalf – was declared fit for the game by the Irish on Friday, despite carrying a groin injury this week and not practicing his kicking for fear of exacerbating the problem.
As far as the Pumas are concerned, Sexton is at 100 percent.
Article continues below ...
”With the great coach (Joe Schmidt) that Ireland has at the moment, if he trusts Sexton is able to play at No. 10, it’s because he is 9/10 or 10/10,” Argentina flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said Friday. ”He wouldn’t play Sexton in such an important game thinking that he won’t be able to fulfil the 80 minutes.
”Of course we are going to focus on Sexton a lot. Not because he has an injury but because he is the main player on their attack. He plays quick, slow, kicks, plays with the dummy. He’s a very, very good player.”
Sexton’s availability is the good news in an otherwise tough few days for Ireland, which has lost captain Paul O’Connell, flanker Peter O’Mahony and outside center Jared Payne to injury, as well as openside flanker Sean O’Brien to suspension.
By comparison, Argentina’s buildup has been a straightforward. Suspended center Marcelo Bosch was the only regular name missing from the its lineup announced Friday, with most of the Pumas’ top players having been rested for last weekend’s Pool C closer against Namibia and therefore having two weeks to prepare for the quarterfinals.
”Teams like Ireland are used to playing hard games every week,” Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade said through a translator. ”We have some players who have had very physical games in the two games (against New Zealand and Georgia). Some of our players aren’t used to playing competitive games one week after another.
”We have had the opportunity to rotate those players, but we don’t consider that an advantage. In professional rugby, having one week is enough for players.”
Bosch was banned for a week for committing a dangerous tackle against Namibia, and is replaced by Matias Moroni.
Scrumhalf Martin Landajo will start ahead of Tomas Cubelli and will win his 50th cap.
”We know what Paul O’Connell means for Ireland, and the other injured players,” Hourcade said. ”They have already said they are going to play for them and there will be typical Irish passion. But they will face a team in Argentina also playing with a big heart.”
Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero, Matias Moroni, Juan Martin Hernandez, Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Leonardo Senatore, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Ramiro Herrera, Agustin Creevy, Marcos Ayerza. Reserves: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Matias Alemanno, Facundo Isa, Tomas Cubelli, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.