Argentina v Ireland: Paul O’Connell set to earn 100th cap
Argentina v Ireland: Paul O'Conneill is set to earn his 100th cap against a weakened Pumas side on Saturday
Ireland captain Paul O’Connell will win his 100th Test cap on Saturday against a weakened Argentina side in Resistencia.
The Munster lock’s 93rd Ireland cap will see him join an elite group of Irishmen, made up of recent retirees Brian O’Driscoll (141), Ronan O’Gara (130) and John Hayes (107), in becoming a centurion.
It will be hostile [on Saturday], it’s a place where Test match rugby hasn’t been before so the local population will be very much behind the Argentinians
Head coach Joe Schmidt has handed Ulster flanker Robbie Diack—who this time last year was playing for Emerging Ireland in the Tbilisi Cup—his debut in the back row alongside his provincial team-mate Chris Henry with Leinster number 8 Jordi Murphy making his first start after two appearances off the bench.
Connacht duo Kieran Marmion and Rodney Ah You could also make their debut if they are called on from the bench.
Leinster loosehead prop Jack McGrath starts alongside Ulster hooker Rory Best and Leinster tighthead Mike Ross as O’Connell leads the team from the second row beside Ulster lock Iain Henderson.
Saturday’s Pro12 final has The back-row is made up of Ulster team-mates Diack and Chris Henry with Leinster’s Jordi Murphy, who is making his first start at this level, wearing the number eight jersey.
“There are a number of players that are fatigued from the Pro12 final,” said Schmidt.
“There are a number of players that we wanted to give an opportunity. We have this one window to really do that.
“The Guinness Series [in November] is going to be immeasurably tougher with South Africa and Australia, but it’s going to be very, very tough here, and one of the things that you want to find out is how the players cope in a tough environment.
“It will be hostile [on Saturday], it’s a place where Test match rugby hasn’t been before so the local population will be very much behind the Argentinians.”
Racing Metro outside-half Johnny Sexton and Munster scrum-half continue their partnership at half-back with an all-Ulster midfield consisting of Luke Marshall at inside centre with Darren Cave winning his sixth cap in the famous 13 jersey.
Rob Kearney’s absence gives Munster’s Felix Jones a rare chance to impress at full-back with Andrew Trimble on the right wing and Munster’s Simon Zebo also getting a chance on the left wing with Leinster’s Fergus McFadden on the bench.
“If the opportunity is afforded to you then I think you’ve got to reciprocate with the best performance you can put together,” added Schmidt.
“The way the players have trained this week that’s certainly what they are working towards with the combinations we have, with the combative nature of the way the Argentinians play.
“They are a little bit unknown, they are a little bit harder to predict than other teams we have played. Then to be able to react and endure what will be a pretty tough Test match in a very tough environment, it’s going to give us a bit more information about how these guys will cope in the future.”
Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero, Jerónimo De la Fuente, Gabriel Ascarate, Manuel Montero; Nicolás Sánchez, Martín Landajo; Lucas Noguera Paz, Matías Cortese, Ramiro Herrera, Manuel Carizza, Tomas Lavanini, Rodrigo Baez, Tomás De la Vega, Benjamin Macome,
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Bruno Postiglioni, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Matías Alemanno, Javier Ortega Desio, Tomás Cubelli, Santiago González Iglesias, Lucas González Amorosino.
Ireland: Felix Jones (Munster); Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster); Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro), Conor Murray (Munster); Jack McGrath (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Paul O’Connell (Munster, captain), Robbie Diack (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster).
Replacements: Damien Varley (Munster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Rodney Ah You (Connacht), Devin Toner (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster).
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)