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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Morgan Treacy/INPHO Even in victory, Jamie Heaslip wasn't very pleased.
# bleak
It's been six years since one of the most depressing days Irish rugby has ever had
Ireland vs Argentina was the low point that was immediately followed by some intense highs.

ANYONE REMEMBER IRELAND vs Argentina on a cold November evening six years ago? You’re lucky if the passage of time has blurred your memory because it was one of the bleakest days in Irish rugby history.

It was Declan Kidney’s third game in charge of the national side – the first two November Tests featured a demolishing of Canada and a hammering the hands of the All Blacks – and Ireland needed to win to ensure they would be among the second seeds at the 2011 World Cup.

The Ireland team was basically at full-strength, and a lot of new blood had been brought in since the 2007 World Cup.

Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney and Stephen Ferris all started so the nucleus of the Grand Slam side was on the field and up against a weakened Argentina side.

Brian O'Driscoll on the attack Morgan Treacy / INPHO There was a worrying lack of creativity in the Irish backline. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Dr Phil Contepomi was absent and once Juan Martin Henrandez pulled up in the warm-up, it looked like it would be a fairly routine victory.

In fact, the centre pairing of Luke Fitzgerald and Brian O’Driscoll was so mouthwatering that George Hook exclaimed before the series that the ‘Holy Ghost fathers in Blackrock College will be chomping at the bit to see these two together!’.

Hook’s hyperbole was way off the mark once again.

What followed that day was 77 minutes of the most putrid, uninspired rugby you could ever be forced to watch.

I remember standing in the Hill 16, staring almost disbelievingly in front of me wondering how Ireland had become so awful (and it was freezing, which made it much worse).

A little over a year before, the consensus was that the pool of Irish players was the best ever and now they were wheezing past a mediocre Argentina side.

This late try – the only five-pointer of the game which was 12-3 at the time – served as a ray of hope for the fans and players alike.

MottiRugby / YouTube

The aftermath of the game was fairly unforgiving even though the team had secured their World Cup seeding. Naturally, George Hook eviscerated Kidney and did everything short of demanding he be fired three games into his tenure.

Of course, you know what happened next. There is a famous saying that ‘the night is darkest just before the dawn’ or at least, it sounded cool in The Dark Knight, and this proved to be the case with Ireland as they began to come out of their slump.

The Argentina game was so depressing that it required that famous ‘behind-closed-doors’ meeting where Rob Kearney asked why the Munster players didn’t play as well for Ireland as they did for their province.

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Marcus Horan got angry but whether that meeting was the reason or not, Ireland were a different team in the 6 Nations.

There is no need to recap what happened next (SPOILER ALERT: we won the Grand Slam and Paddy Wallace crapped the bed) but it was interesting to see how Ireland scored their second try in the clinching game against Wales.

Conor Ryan / YouTube

Notice anything familiar to that cold November evening?

IRELAND: Geordan Murphy; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements used: Rory Best for Flannery (14 mins), Donnacha Ryan for Wallace (76). Not used: Tony Buckley, Malcolm O’Kelly, Eoin Reddan, Paddy Wallace, Keith Earls.

ARGENTINA: Horacio Agulla; Francisco Leonelli, Federico Martin Aramburu, Miguel Avramovic, Rafael Carballo; Santiago Fernandez, Nicolas Vergallo; Rodrigo Roncero, Mario Ledesma, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, Patricio Albacete, Martin Durand, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (capt), Juan Manuel Leguizamon.

Replacements used: Marcos Ayerza for Orlandi (48 mins), Esteban Lozada for Alvarez Kairelis (55), Agustin Figuerola for Vergallo, Bernard Stortoni for Leonelli (both 61). Not used: Alberto Vernet Basualdo, Alvaro Galindo, Mauro Comuzzi.

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