Upbeat Hickie enters last-chance saloon

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The Independent Online

Denis Hickie will draw inspiration from the scale of the prize at stake as he prepares for probably the final match of his career. Ireland are 80 minutes away from a bewildering World Cup group exit that has left coach, players and nation with puzzled looks as they attempt to explain the team's shocking decline. A precarious route into the quarter-finals has been plotted against in-form Argentina.

They must defeat the Pumas by more than seven points, while scoring a minimum of four tries, in a last-ditch effort to avoid becoming the first Irish team not to progress beyond the group stage. The challenge represents a last-chance saloon for Ireland and Hickie, who is retiring from all rugby at the end of the tournament.

But rather than fear seeing his career meet an inglorious end as Ireland's dismal World Cup is finally put out of its misery, Hickie is relishing the do-or-die scenario.

"This possibly being my last game does put a bit of pressure on me, but I'd got my head around that before the tournament had started," he said. "I don't feel a huge amount of added pressure just because this might be my last match. The last game could have been my last as well.

"I'm aware that things are stacked against us, so the reality of what defeat means is facing me if we don't get what we need to against Argentina. But that just makes me look forward to the game even more."

"The pressure will come at certain points in the game. At that point you can start panicking and drop your heads, or respond," he said. "We must stick to our guns and the gameplan. We must keep playing and not go into our shells."

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