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Schmidt looks towards World Cup quarter against 'incredibly good' Pumas

The Ireland head coach has been impressed by Argentina’s exciting backs.

Murray Kinsella reports from Cardiff

COMING INTO THE World Cup, it looked as though a quarter-final against Argentina was Ireland’s most comfortable route on to the final four of the competition.

Avoiding New Zealand was seen as the key, but the superb form of the Pumas in Pool C has made Ireland’s quarter-final challenge in Cardiff next weekend all the more intimidating.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt will have already looked at the Pumas in depth. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After Ireland and their supporters won the battle against France in the Millennium Stadium yesterday, they will return to the same venue to take on Daniel Hourcade’s Argentina on Sunday.

The Pumas came out of Pool C with one defeat against New Zealand and wins versus Georgia, Tonga and Namibia, with 22 tries scored in some rounded attacking performances.

Joe Schmidt says the only attractive factor in playing Argentina, rather than the Kiwis, is the extra day’s rest. With the number of injuries sustained against the French, the additional 24 hours is badly needed.

“I think the biggest attraction for us in playing Argentina was the the seven-day turnaround, not because we want to play them,” says Schmidt. “I think they’ve been incredibly good, not just since the Rugby World Cup started but I had a very good look at their win in Durban (in the Rugby Championship).

To put the South Africans away like that is a major performance. They have cruised through their group.

“They maybe should have been a few points further ahead at half time against the All Blacks in the first round of their pool and that didn’t work out for them at the end, but they put the All Blacks under an immense amount of pressure.”

Argentina have been formidable in the set-piece, as would be expected at this stage, but the worrying thing about their performances at this World Cup has been their offloading, willingness to run from deep and sheer ambition to play exciting rugby.

Wing pair Juan Imhoff and 21-year-old Santiago Cordero have been in sensational form out wide, providing the Pumas with the ability to shred defences. Juan Martín Hernández, ‘El Mago’, has rolled back the years in the centre too with some magical playmaking.

“We know that the physicality, the skills and the speed of the Argentinians is going to challenge us massively,” says Schmidt.

Joe Schmidt with Morgan Parra Schmidt speaks with Morgan Parra before yesterday's game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Their set-piece is going to be a challenge and for us, really to be honest, this (France game) was a bit of an end point. We haven’t do too much work on looking ahead because we didn’t know who we were going to be playing.

“No mistake, I have certainly kept a close eye on them. ‘El Mago’ has put together some pretty impressive stuff and out wide there’s some fantastic challenges to try to shut down.

“I thought Juan Imhoff again coming off the bench (against Namibia), and some of the performances he’s had, with his feet in beating a man. Cordero has been a phenomenal contributor for them.”

Schmidt sees a range of strong options for Hourcade in the front row too, while also pointing to the youthful talent of the likes of Facundo Isa in the back row.

The problem for Daniel sometimes is who he leaves out,” says Schmidt, “because there’s some fantastic young talent in their back row as well as the really good experience of the likes of (Juan Martín) Fernández Lobbe.”

Schmidt may be a master at promoting the qualities of forthcoming opposition, but the challenge against Argentina will be another major step up on what France provided in Cardiff yesterday.

Indeed, the Pumas look like the team that France have sometimes been in the past, capable of dominating the set-piece and also breaking out in unstructured play with their exciting backs.

A big week ahead for Ireland.

- This article was updated at 9.55 to correct ‘El Majo’ to ‘El Mago’.

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Murray Kinsella

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