Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Argentina, Aviva Stadium, Sunday, 2.15pm
Live blog on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app.
Live commentary on Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1 with commentary from Michael Corcoran and Mike Sherry, while Anna Caplice will provide analysis.
Live coverage on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player from 1.30pm, highlights on Against the Head, RTÉ2, Monday 8pm.
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Here we go again
The real deal or another false dawn? Only time will tell but Ireland's brilliant win over New Zealand last week was so impressive that even United States President Joe Biden called the squad to congratulate them on their 29-20 success at the Aviva Stadium.
We’ve been here before, of course. In November 2018 when Ireland defeated the All Blacks in Dublin, then Kiwi head coach Steven Hansen labelled Joe Schmidt’s side favourites for the World Cup. At the tournament in Japan a year later they would lose to the hosts in the group stages before New Zealand hammered them 46-14 in the quarter-final.
Both those sides have now been taken care of in recent weeks, with Japan crushed on a 60-5 scoreline, but Argentina should provide a stern test of Irish credentials as Andy Farrell’s side chase an eighth straight win.
That would also ensure a clean sweep in autumn ahead of the Six Nations in February, but injured captain Johnny Sexton laid out a reminder that they can’t get carried away with their victory over the All Blacks.
"We've already identified that this is the start of a two-year journey and we've said that. This is the start and it's important that we continually improve," he said.
Still, amongst that cautious optimism, it’s hard not to get excited by what has happened in recent weeks.
The hammering of Japan was impressive, but the manner of victory against New Zealand took it to a whole new level. If anything, the nine-point margin at the end of play was flattering to the three-time World Cup champions.
Current coach Ian Foster didn’t go as far as his predecessor Hansen did three years ago, but his praise was fulsome and genuine.
"When it really mattered at the end, we just didn't quite have the composure to take the opportunity that we had presented to us.
"That was a very, very good performance and probably the best performance I've come up against in my time. I thought they were pretty polished."
So, are we at the start of a very special journey or is this just another peak or is there an inevitable trough lying in wait? Argentina won’t tell us too much, but another resounding win will add fuel to the fire.
Ireland and Argentina have met 18 times in Test matches and it's 12-6 in favour of those in green, but the prospect of the Pumas will always bring a bit of a shudder.
That’s because World Cup meetings have generally gone the way of the Argies.
They first met at the tournament in 1999 when, after extra-time, Argentina won 28-24 with Gonzalo Quesada’s 23-point tally nearly matching the opposition’s entire score.
Ireland gained some revenge four years later as Alan Quinlan’s try secured a one-point win, but Argentina ensured that Ireland wouldn’t get out of their group in 2007 with a 30-15 win while the result was even more emphatic in the 2015 quarter-final as an injury-ravaged Ireland fell to a 43-20 defeat.
Argentina’s other three victories have come on home soil so they will be chasing a first-ever win in Ireland on Sunday.
It’s just over a year since Argentina recorded their own fine win over New Zealand - a 25-15 Tri-Nations victory was their first ever over the All Blacks – but it’s been mostly losses since then.
They have played 14 times since and have only recorded wins over Wales, Romania and Italy, although there were a couple of decent draws with Australia in there too.
That Italian victory came in their last game while their first Autumn Nations Series encounter was a battling 29-20 defeat to France at the Stade de France.
They hit five tries against Italy in Treviso with Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Matias Moroni, Santiago Cordero and Facundo Bosch, who had a try ruled out moments earlier, all touching down in the 37-16 win.
There had been a thinking that Andy Farrell might look to his squad for this clash, but he has named a strong line-up as he attempts to finish the year out in style.
Out-half and captain Johnny Sexton and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park have been ruled out through injury, while Farrell has made two changes on top of that.
Ulster wing Robert Baloucoune, Leinster centre Robbie Henshaw and Munster half-backs Joey Carbery and Conor Murray have come in with James Ryan taking the captaincy in Sexton’s absence.
Enniskillen man Balocoune is set to make his second appearance having appeared against the USA in the summer and helping himself to a brilliant try in the 71-10 win.
Argentina will give loose forward Santiago Grondona his first start in almost a year while Lucio Cinti and Guido Petti also come into the side.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Robert Baloucoune, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan (capt), Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls.
Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Mateo Carreras, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Carreras, Tomas Cubelli, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Santiago Grondona, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya, Thomas Gallo
Replacements: Facundo Bosch, Ignacio Calles, Eduardo Bello, Lucas Paulos, Facundo Isa, Gonzalo Bertranou, Nicolas Sanchez, Facundo Cordero.
Follow Ireland v Japan (Saturday) and Ireland v Argentina (Sunday) via our live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player, or listen to national radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1.