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Rugby World Cup Ireland v Argentina: Ace Iain Henderson tipped for a place in Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien's absence

By Jonathan Bradley

Iain Henderson has been backed to step up in Sunday's World Cup quarter-final against Argentina as Ireland bid to cope with the loss of Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien.

O'Connell and O'Mahony are both out of the World Cup having shipped tournament-ending injuries in the win over France last weekend while O'Brien will be banned for the last eight tie having been found guilty of striking Les Bleus lock Pascal Pape in the Pool D decider.

Henderson was again in sensational form when used off the bench in that contest and scrum coach Greg Feek has tipped the Ulsterman to excel back in the Millennium Stadium this weekend and fill the void left by the absence of his more senior colleagues.

"All of them need to step up and become leaders in their own right now," said Feek.

"We can't wait for someone to do things, we have to stand up and do it.

"Iain Henderson did well off the bench against France and hopefully he can keep his form going.

"I've said before some games you need guys in from the start and others for the same guys to make a big impact off the bench.

"However it falls they all have to take the game by the scruff of the neck."

Argentina have been one of the tournament's stand-out teams to date, with Feek especially wary of a set-piece led by Leicester Tigers loosehead Marcos Ayerza.

"Argentina have come into the World Cup under the radar a bit, but they have got a well-balanced side," he added. "We are under no illusions this will be our biggest test so far.

"Marcos Ayerza is their big rock, I suppose. Since coming back to the new laws, I think he has come back to the fore, and the World Cup has shown that if you don't get it quite right, anyone can hit you.

"It's a real mental thing now and with Argentina, they look really good. I think the combinations that Argentina have got have been together a bit longer than France in the front-row.

"They seem to be a bit more used to each other.

"I think the French were still dangerous, you saw that, but Argentina really know what they want to do and it is going to be a really tough challenge."

Ireland team manager Mick Kearney said yesterday that he expects Keith Earls and Johnny Sexton to train this morning ahead of a lunchtime team announcement while also confirming that O'Connell had surgery on his hamstring yesterday.

Both Sexton and Earls were substituted in the win over France but are expected to be ready to face the Pumas should they come through the session unscathed.

O'Connell, meanwhile, planned to rejoin the team after undergoing the procedure that brought a premature end to both his World Cup and Test career.

"Keith Earls sat out training on Tuesday, basically just managing his load," said Kearney.

"He'd participated in all matches to date, all training sessions, and it was just thought that maybe it would be best if he sat out but he will train fully (today).

"In relation to Johnny Sexton, Johnny did quite a bit of running (on Wednesday). Again he's expected to train on Friday.

"Paul came back into camp on Monday and spent the first couple of days in camp.

"He was in good form, was contributing at the meetings," Kearney said.

"He left for London where he's having an operation and we're hopeful he will rejoin us either (this) evening or Saturday."

The Millennium Stadium is again expected to be a sea of green come Sunday afternoon with Kearney stating that the squad have been overwhelmed by the support they have received at the tournament.

"I think everybody I spoke to, from players to neutrals, were saying that they've never seen an atmosphere like it in the Millennium Stadium before (for the game with France).

"I don't think anybody has ever heard Ireland's Call sung with such gusto. It was spine tingling," he added.

"The players appreciate it massively.

"They appreciate the effort and the expense that people have gone to to get to Cardiff by air, sea and rail and there's no doubt that it acted as a 16th man right throughout the game."

World Cup QF: Millennium Stadium, Sunday, 1.00pm

Ireland v Argentina

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