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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 19 October, 2018

Exhausted Argentina arrive in Dublin aiming to end gruelling season on a high

The Pumas ended a seven-game losing streak last weekend and see Saturday as a good chance to earn a first Test win in Dublin.

Argentina second-row Guido Petti pictured at the team's hotel in Dublin yesterday.
Argentina second-row Guido Petti pictured at the team's hotel in Dublin yesterday.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

ARGENTINA ARRIVED IN Dublin yesterday for the final game of a long and arduous 11-month season which has seen the bulk of the squad dovetail their energy across Super Rugby, Rugby Championship and November international windows.

Second row Guido Petti admits the players are exhausted.

Little surprise really when their gruelling schedule has included 30 games for club and country without interruption and as many as 50 long-haul flights from Buenos Aires to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Japan and Europe. And back again.

It all takes a toll.

“I think we’re tired, but we know that it’s the last match and we want to end this year the best we can,” Petti, the 23-year-old lock, says.

“A lot of trips, a lot of time away from our families and friends, the people we like. It’s been very tough, maybe some good matches and some not. The last one against Italy was very good for us, to lift our spirits, and now we hope this game feels good and we continue playing the way want to.”

At least they’ve come into the last leg of the season in better form after Saturday’s win over Italy in Florence halted a seven-game losing streak which included back-to-back defeats to a weakened England side during their home summer series.

They then failed to win any of their Rugby Championship outings and, in total, 19 defeats in their last 22 Tests paints the picture of a difficult year.

Last weekend wasn’t perfect but getting across the line was a relief. It was a much-needed win for head coach Daniel Hourcade and his weary squad. Frustration was growing, morale sinking and more mistakes creeping into their performances, but to score 17 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes lifts spirits.

Tomas Lavanini celebrates winning The Pumas say they aren't reading too much into their 2015 World Cup win this week. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Hourcade’s policy of only selecting home-based players means all but two of the travelling party were involved in the Jaguares’ Super Rugby campaign and then it was straight into the Rugby Championship.

Petti smiles when asked if the players will be thinking of beers and beaches during Saturday’s Test against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

You wouldn’t blame them.

“Of course we have it in our mind, but we are thinking of this match,” he laughs. “It’s just one week, the last one for us, so we really want to not just get the result, but play the game well.”

At least this is a fixture with recent happy memories for the Pumas, with the last meeting between the countries being that 2015 World Cup quarter-final in Cardiff.

“An amazing experience,” Petti, then just 20, recalls.

It was, in his opinion, one of the team’s best results along with the 2014 victory over France and a first-ever win over the Springboks a year later. But Argentina aren’t reading too much into that 43-20 defeat of Ireland this week.

He adds: “Maybe the team was different. We already know Ireland. They are a very passionate team, very tough.

“They like playing a lot on the line and in the scrums with the forwards, so it is going to be a very tough game. It’s the one that dominates physically is the one that is going to take it.”

Assistant coach Pablo Bouza agrees.

“Ireland had so many injuries the week before. Very important players. Argentina was in good shape for the World Cup. It is different moment and different teams now. We cannot look back to that match. They showed how good they are against South Africa.”

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