Even Brian O'Driscoll, who scored some brilliant tries in the last World Cup, has been lost in France as Ireland's disastrous campaign marks them out as the tournament's biggest under-achievers. Trailing Argentina and France in Pool D, the Irish have no option but to go for broke at Parc des Princes today.
Ireland have scored seven tries in their three matches, half of Argentina's total, and that has left them facing a shattering retreat to Dublin where, funnily enough, they would have played a few of their pool matches but for the demolition of Lansdowne Road. It was part of the horse trading done by France with the Celtic nations – in exchange for their votes, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin would play a part in the World Cup.
Ireland do not just have to beat the Pumas in Paris but score at least four tries while denying their opponents any bonus points. And all this against one of the strongest teams in the competition.
The winners of Pool D avoid New Zealand in the quarter-finals so Argentina will not want to lose pole position to France, who play Georgia in Marseilles a couple of hours earlier. Eddie O'Sullivan, Ireland's embattled coach, has tried to sharpen up his back line by recalling Geordan Murphy to full-back and Denis Hickie to the wing.
"They provide us with more game-breakers," O'Driscoll said. "Denis brings raw speed while Geordan has the ability to make something out of nothing. It would be a travesty to have worked as hard as we have over the last four years and not put in a big performance. First and foremost we have to think about our performance. Hopefully we can let that take care of the score we need. If we can't, we'll die trying."
It will have to be Ireland's finest hour and a bit. Argentina, who stunned France with a 17-12 victory in the opening match, are in a great position to reach the semi-finals, something Ireland have never achieved.To top it all, just when they need the performance of a lifetime from their stand-off, Ronan O'Gara has had a wretched tournament, beset with stories about his private life. He denies he has run up huge gambling debts but admits that as a racehorse owner he enjoys a punt.
As a No 10, O'Gara, who has been operating without his long-time Munster partner Peter Stringer, is mainly a kicker yet today, against a team who scrummage on an industrial scale, Ireland must score tries. Can they get them? A betting man would be reluctant to think so.Reuse content