sport

Sexton expects physical clash

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton has braced Ireland for a fractious encounter with Argentina on Saturday.

One of Test rugby's unlikeliest rivalries will be renewed at Aviva Stadium on Saturday and in keeping with previous meetings, the stakes are high.

For the second time in four years they are trading blows for the prize of a place among the second tier of seeds for next month's 2015 World Cup draw.

A pool containing hosts England and one of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or France potentially awaits the losers.

Ireland and Argentina have collided at three previous World Cups with the Irish exiting the 1999 and 2007 tournaments as a result of crumbling before the Pumas.

Ronan O'Gara has spoken of the "bad blood" between the rivals, while four years ago at Croke Park Donncha O'Callaghan declared "personally, I don't like them".

The Munster veterans are on the bench tomorrow and although many of the protagonists may have changed, Sexton believes the lingering hostility adds to the theatre.

"Rugby's a physical game and sometimes there are little arguments. They're good and sometimes that's why people watch the sport," he said.

"Argentina and Ireland matches have always been like that.

"We're two very passionate teams that want to do well and that boils over at times.

"At outside-half I don't get involved too much and try to stay away from it.

"If there is a confrontation then there is one, but we won't be looking for it.

"Argentina have really evolved their game in recent times and their team has strength throughout.

"I'd say we're fairly evenly matched across the board, so it's about who turns up and plays better on the day."

Ireland are hoping to halt a run of five successive Test defeats, their worst losing sequence for 14 years.

Despite missing six key players to injury, the Guinness Series opener against South Africa presented the chance to return to winning ways only for a 12-3 half-time lead to deteriorate into a 16-12 loss.

Sexton, who has recovered from the groin injury that forced him to miss last Saturday's non-cap international against Fiji, has implored Ireland to keep their foot on Argentina's jugular.

"We showed the intensity we are capable of bringing against South Africa, but we didn't do that for 80 minutes," the 27-year-old said.

"It's easy to do at the start of a game when you're psyched up, but when you need to score in the final quarter, having that intensity is an asset.

"It's about doing it for 80 minutes this week. We will have to dog it out at times.

"We showed against South Africa that we can play against a quality side."

The only change to the side beaten by the Springboks is the selection of uncapped 21-year-old Craig Gilroy, who replaces Ulster colleague Andrew Trimble on the left wing.

Gilroy has scored five tries in two outings for Ireland - both were non-cap matches - and Sexton has witnessed first hand how dangerous he can be.

"I'm sure Craig will put his individual stamp on the game," he said.

"When he gets his hands on the ball he's pretty terrifying. He's a great player and deserves a go.

"We've played against him at Leinster and have to give him a special mention before the game about how he is able to beat the first tackler.

"He's a real out and out winger who can do some serious damage when he gets the ball."