Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Ireland face tough battle in grudge match with Pumas


Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll has stated his team are prepared to die in their World Cup Pool D match with Argentina in Paris today.

Given the bad blood between the two sides, it may not be far from the truth.

Added to the highly-charged atmosphere is the fact that the Irish need to not only beat the Pumas but also score four tries and be more than seven points ahead at the end to progress to the quarter-finals.

Their World Cup head-to-head reads 1-1 with the Argentines winning the 1999 quarter-final play-off 28-24 while the Irish avenged that defeat in 2003 with a 16-15 win in the group stage.

"To eliminate Ireland would be perfect," said Argentine fullback Ignacio Corleto. "In 2003 I had my heart broken and there's still a little bit of a bitter taste."

Meanwhile, Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma has little time for his Irish opponents.

"Not all the Irish players are classy on the pitch," Ledesma said. "Ronan O'Gara winds people up. He hasn't stopped reminding us of the 2003 match."

The atmosphere ahead of today's match has not been helped by the Pumas Agustin Pichot's outburst over that defeat in 2003.

He claimed it illustrated that the Irish were one of the IRB's favorites and that they weren't encumbered by a crammed fixture list at the World Cup like the so-called second tier nations.

The bad blood isn't all one-way.

In the 2004 Test, Ireland skipper O'Driscoll alleged to the referee the Argentines were constantly poking players in the eye.

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan wanted citings but they never materialized.

"Rugby is an ethical sport and you can't keep asking the referee to hand out cards during 40 minutes," Pichot said. "The Irish didn't give us any respect."

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