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'I do not think the win will make Ireland stop' - Pumas lock is fearful after All Blacks result

Guido Petti says his side will have to raise their game against the Irish this weekend.

Image: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Updated Nov 17th 2021, 9:32 PM

IT IS ALMOST a year to the day since Argentina had their own memorable win over New Zealand, so Guido Petti is perhaps one of the best placed to ask just how to back up a win over the mighty All Blacks.

It was on 14 November 2020 that Los Pumas rolled into Sydney having not played a game since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, expected by almost everyone within rugby circles to be mercilessly put to the sword by the No.2-ranked nation who were aiming to avoid back-to-back defeats after losing to Australia a week prior.

But all of them counted out the Pumas’ fighting spirit. Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez scored all of Argentina’s points in their first-ever win over the All Blacks, Mario Ledesma’s men triumphing 25-15, and not only that but they then backed it up a week later by holding the Wallabies to a 15-15 draw that easily could have gone their way, too.

And that is the challenge facing Ireland this week when the South Americans roll into the Aviva Stadium for both teams’ final Test match of the year on Sunday: what is the secret formula to keeping your momentum going after getting one over New Zealand?

It is something that Ireland haven’t really had tested yet as, to date, their previous two wins over the All Blacks were followed by a game featuring a significant drop in opposition. In 2016, it was back to Dublin to face Canada and a 52-21 win. In 2019, the USA were thumped 57-14.

Argentina, while not on the same level as New Zealand, will pose a significantly sterner test than either North American opponent. But second row Petti is not expecting any drop in intensity the week after a pulsating contest in Dublin.

“After victories like this, that Ireland had the week before, I think you become stronger, not weaker. They are going to have great confidence,” believes the Bordeaux-Begles lock, who started that win over New Zealand a year ago.

“For us, [beating the All Blacks] was a huge thing, it was the first time in our lives, so of course it was a challenge that felt almost impossible for us. Maybe it was difficult for us to get training again in the week after such a moment, but from victories you get stronger, you get more confidence, so you start feeling things with each other that you didn’t feel before and more energy.

“We always say great teams are not the ones that beat other great teams once. The great teams are the ones that are consistent, they don’t do it just one time. Get in on Monday again, put yourself to work and do it again against the team at the weekend.

“Even if what happened last week did not happen, Ireland would still be a great team, so just one great win is not going to make them stop. This is the last match for them too before the Six Nations, so they will want to end this Test in the best way. For both of us it is the last game and they will be very well prepared.”

rugby-world-cup-2019-france-2321-argentina Guido Petti in action for Argentina. Source: Rodrigo Reyes Marin

Los Pumas arrived in Dublin themselves off the back of a promising 37-16 win over an admittedly limited Italian team last Saturday, but in all it hasn’t been the ideal Test window for Ledesma’s men, with that game in Treviso their only triumph in eight outings this year.

A galling Rugby Championship campaign ended winless, with only 60 points scored and a whopping 195 conceded in their six matches. But there have at least been signs of improvement since they came to the northern hemisphere, with last week’s win preceded by an admirable effort in Paris where they held a strong France side to a 29-20 scoreline.

“Through all of the year we have had good and bad things but not the consistency,” explains Petti. “Playing against great teams like Ireland or the All Blacks or South Africa or Australia, you have to be almost perfect over the 80 minutes to win. Maybe the indiscipline or mistakes we’ve made during the matches hasn’t allowed us to win some games.

“But we have been making progress in the line-outs and the scrum and in the backs too. We didn’t have the 80 minutes, so that is why we couldn’t (win) as much, but if we find the consistency in the team then we can do great things like we already did.

“Last week we had some (good) phases. In attack, we were maybe not finding each other before, but in this match we really got nice senses with each other. We made some great things happen with the lineouts and the maul. We dominated the line-outs and also the scrum, so that was really good.”

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Every question Petti faces on Wednesday evening is prefaced with ‘happy birthday’, the smiling lock reaching 27 years of age in Dublin. When asked what he’s doing to celebrate, he responds simply by saying “not much”, although he flashes another grin when the possibility of cake is mentioned.

The best birthday presents he could ask for, first and foremost is to overcome a knee injury that ruled him out of the Italy game last week – “I hope I will play, it has felt good,” he says in that regard – and secondly is to pick up a first Argentinian win on Irish soil.

In nine visits to Lansdowne Road, Croke Park and the Aviva, Ireland hold a perfect record. In games played outside of these shores, Los Pumas hold the advantage with six wins to Ireland’s three. Petti can’t put his finger on why that is, but he knows they’re in for a thunderous atmosphere when they step foot into the cauldron on Sunday afternoon.

“I even remember from the game in 2018 the national anthem of Ireland, with 50,000 people shouting. We love to play in countries that are really passionate about rugby, so we are really looking forward to it,” he recalls.

“As I said, I think Ireland is a great team and even if they hadn’t beaten the All Blacks we would still think they’re a really great team. They have really experienced players, so we are waiting to play a great match in front of a full stadium. I think it will be a really good game and we can’t wait for it. We really want to finish the year in a great way.”

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