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Ayerza hoping to end landmark year on high

The Leicester prop is confident that a decent Argentinian performance this week, will bring a first ever win in Dublin.

Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

THIS SATURDAY AT the Aviva Stadium, Argentina’s long international season will finally draw to a close.

It has been a season unlike any that came before for them.

Their first in a top tier competition outside of the World Cup; and the Rugby Championship came nowhere near to shaming them.

Still, despite solid performances against the top three sides in the world and pats on the back from all-comers, loose-head prop Marcos Ayerza says the squad remained frustrated by their lack of victories they were able to put on the board.

“After having a good Rugby Championship, I think it was very important for us to get our first win.” Ayerza said, amiably fielding questions in a south Dublin hotel this week.

“It was frustrating having performed so well in Rosario (19-25 loss to Australia), in Mendoza (16-16 draw with South Africa) and on the Gold Coast against Australia – having started very well against New Zealand away for 66 minutes and, at the end, losing the games.

“We are happy with our performance in the Rugby Championship and having that massive boost of beating Wales in the Millennium Stadium, where we haven’t beaten them many times, was a big boost for us. But we are targeting finishing on a high and having a big win in Dublin would be…”

The bulky Leicester Tiger pauses, either searching for the right word in English or deliberately adding a threatening emphasis for the key word on the restart, “huge for us.”

Assurance

The win in Wales certainly tempered Argentine doubts; there must have been a huge sense of relief at finally closing out a win. Though thrown into a harsher light by Samoa repeating the feat, the victory in Cardiff merely proved that the Pumas were on the right course.

“I’d say, of course, we lost against France and we haven’t performed as well as we would have liked.  Any team is hungry to improve.” Ayerza said, beginning to sound like one of the traditional southern hemisphere powers.

“We have huge respect for Ireland, we won’t come in over-confident or saying we should be favourites. I think we’re as good as we can play, it all depends on our game and if we can perform as well as we know we can do, then we will do well. It all depends on our concentration and if our hunger is still there.

“It will be tough.”

On Saturday, Ayerza will be joined by Maximiliano Bustos in the front row as Juan Figallo had been dispatched back to Montpellier (as part of that quite unique club v country agreement) even before his head-butt citing was upheld yesterday. Opposite them will be a Leinster front row which Ayerza is familiar with and respectful of having watched the trio as a unit in club competition.

Beast

However, internationals are a different beast, as are Argentina of late. Rather than raging against the IRB machine, these days, Argentina carry with them a sense of belonging. They believe that a first ever win in Dublin is within grasp if they can just avoid glaring errors and play their own game. It’s an assurance that comes from playing against – and running close – vastly superior outfits than Ireland over the summer.

“For Argentina; we were looking to have regular tournament for many, many years. I feel this is only going to make us better. And the big plus; competing against the best sides in the world home and away is massive for us.

“As well, spending a whole season together: that’s how Argentina is evolving and getting better. It’s a learning curve, it’s still all very new and we’re trying to improve every game.

“We want to finish on a high. We want to finish by beating Ireland in Dublin.

“It’s a huge task for any team and to close out a year with the Rugby Championship and November Test series – which has been good so far, but not as good as we would have liked – would just be the best way of finishing and we’re all focused on having a good game, and hopefully winning.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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