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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 10 December, 2018

'Hopefully I've put my hand up but that's for Joe and the coaches to decide'

Kieran Marmion hopes he gets the chance to start against the All Blacks next weekend.

Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium 

THE SIGHT OF Kieran Marmion hobbling off with a rolled ankle is not what Joe Schmidt wanted to see, particularly with Conor Murray — after a will he or won’t he to-and-fro — now ‘highly unlikely’ to make his miraculous comeback against the All Blacks.

Marmion had attempted to run off the problem but was forced off shortly before the hour mark against Argentina, with the Connacht scrum-half left icing his ankle on the bench.

Kieran Marmion scores his sides first try Marmion crosses for his fourth Ireland try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There was no obvious sign of discomfort or pain as he made his way into the mixed zone at the Aviva Stadium afterwards, with Schmidt declaring that he is confident Marmion will be available for next Saturday. 

The 26-year-old is now in pole position to start against the world champions after his try-scoring performance here, and Marmion’s display clearly impressed the head coach, who remarked he was his man of the match.

As well as a fourth international try, Marmion produced an excellent display as his distribution behind a dominant scrum was crisp and he looked sharp in all areas, most notably in how quickly he got to rucks to keep Ireland on the front-foot.

There was also a try-saving tackle on Ramiro Moyano in the first half, before Bautista Delguy eventually crossed in the corner after a brilliant, multi-phase move from the Pumas orchestrated by Matias Orlando’s initial midfield break.

Marmion did, of course, cross for his own score at the other end, showing great awareness to pick from the bottom of a reeling scrum and dart through the gap for Ireland’s opening try. 

“I didn’t have to do too much, the scrum was a big weapon for us tonight and did most of the job and I just managed to truck over the line, which is always good to get,” he said.

“We knew they were a quality side, very physical and a lot of good individuals. In the first half we probably let them into the game too much, through turnovers and penalties. Going into the second half we grew into the game a bit more and started to turn up.”

While Marmion won his 23rd cap against the Pumas, it was only his sixth start in green having been largely reduced to cameo roles behind Murray since his debut in 2014. So this was very much a chance he had waited for, and indeed earned. 

“Joe drives it into us that we had to perform this weekend so everyone in the squad was fully focused on this game,” he continued.

Kieran Marmion and Bundee Aki celebrate after the game Marmion and Bundee Aki after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We all know if we didn’t perform in this game, we won’t be involved next weekend so the whole squad as a collective was fully focused on this one.”

Starting against the All Blacks would be a career highlight.

“That’s what I want to do,” Marmion adds. “After tonight hopefully I’ve put my hand up, that’s for Joe and the coaches to decide. All I can do is get ready for that game and if I’m starting great but just train as hard as I can.”

And coming up against Aaron Smith would be the ultimate test.

“He’s a great player and someone I’ve looked up to. To come up against him would be a great honour for me so looking forward to that if I can get involved. It would be a great opportunity.

“There a lot of improvements in our performance going into next week. We’ll look back on that, the areas we need to fix and get ready for a bigger challenge next weekend.”

For now, that ankle needs to be iced.

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Ryan Bailey

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