Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Walking wounded set for last push

Brian O'Driscoll

Ireland will make final checks on their walking wounded on Friday morning before naming their team to play Argentina at lunchtime.

The high attrition rate from an arduous four-Test autumn has filled the squad's treatment room in the build-up to the final match of the series at Aviva Stadium on Sunday. Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, David Wallace, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe have been nursing injuries sustained in last Saturday's 38-18 defeat by New Zealand but should start.

Winger Luke Fitzgerald, full-back Rob Kearney and hooker Rory Best have been ruled out so Keith Earls, Geordan Murphy and Sean Cronin are expected to replace them. Behind the scrum the only area of contention if O'Driscoll, D'Arcy and Bowe pull through is who to play at half back.

If coach Declan Kidney is operating on a rotational basis Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer will line up against the Pumas, but he may prefer to see Jonathan Sexton and Stringer operating in tandem.

The pack is also set to feature changes to all three rows with several permutations possible at prop where Tony Buckley, Mike Ross, Tom Court and Cian Healy are battling for the two places.

The make-up of the front row will take careful planning with the ever-physical Pumas in town and forwards coach Gert Smal admits they have a formidable pack.

"Argentina are definitely one of the toughest scrummaging units around, in the top four," he said. "They pride themselves on it and it's a big thing for them.

"They are a different team to New Zealand so will throw different things at us. Their line-outs aren't too bad and they're very good around the fringes as well."

Ireland gave a far better account of themselves against New Zealand and Smal was encouraged by the performance.

"Last weekend was the first time in a long time that we threw the All Blacks pack back," he said. "There were some positives. We're far from being the finished product but are definitely on the right track."

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