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Marcos Ayerza sets Irish heritage aside for huge match

By Nick Purewal

Part-Irishman and accomplished polo player Marcos Ayerza is itching to take down the land of his forefathers with Argentina's secret scrummaging weapon.

Leicester's Ayerza named a horse Welford Road at his family's famous Haras Agua Rensa stud, but however ungainly the 18 stone front-rower may appear in the saddle, the 32-year-old is no mug at the set-piece.

The World Cup's premier loosehead has excelled at the scrum in tandem with hooker Agustin Creevy - and all because Argentina have restored their fabled "Bajada" system.

Ayerza revealed his great, great grandfather hails from Ireland, then set about pinpointing Argentina's route to victory in tomorrow's World Cup quarter-final in Cardiff.

"Horses and horse racing, it's huge in my family, it started from my grandfather," said Ayerza. "My father and myself have some horses back in Argentina on our farm, and yes I do have a horse called Welford Road.

"Of course I'm one-sixteenth Irish as well: my great, great grandfather was David O'Connor, who came from Ireland.

"Our links with Ireland are always very strong. We have similar ways of thinking.

"Playing against Ireland has great pride for my family. My grandmother, she passed away, but she was proud of me playing against Ireland - her grandfather was Irish and she loved the country.

"When I have time in the off-season I try to ride still and play polo for fun - I'm bigger than the average jockey!"

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