Six Nations champions Ireland face their next chapter under Joe Schmidt as they travel to take on a weakened Argentina on Saturday.
Six Nations champions Ireland face their next chapter under Joe Schmidt as they travel to take on a weakened Argentina.
The Pumas will be without their European based players for the two-Test series, handing opportunities to their domestic starts such a Santiago Cordero to shine through against quality opposition.
For Schmidt, last year's tour to the country by England when Argentina's top players were away with the Lions provides a reference point.
Many of the Argentinian side which lost 51-26 in the final Test last June return this time around. On that occasion the Argentinian pack yielded two penalty tries at the scrum.
That's good news for Ireland, whose squad has been slightly hampered by injuries to Keith Earls, Martin Moore and Paddy Jackson.
The biggest blow though is Robbie Henshaw. Assistant coach Les Kiss spoke earlier in the week about the need to move on from the Six Nations success. In many ways that also means moving on from Brian O'Driscoll – no mean feat considering how the man is worshipped in Ireland and beyond.
Henshaw is one of the candidates in line to replace him, along with Darren Cave, while Jared Payne will qualify to represent his adopted nation next year.
Losing Henshaw is great news for Cave, but the Connacht youngster has so much potential that this tour would have been the perfect first opportunity for him to wear the 13 on his back and show what he could do.
Otherwise, Ireland's squad is strong. Flankers Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien are both left at home to continue rehabilitating before the next World Cup, but Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney and captain Paul O'Connell are all present.
O'Connell's comments on landing in Argentina were of interest, enjoying touring a new country and playing in different parts of the rugby world to the usual hotel route. Ireland will need his leadership for their final match in TucumÃ¡n, a place for no prisoners. Saturday will see the Munster legend make his 100th Test appearance, after 93 for Ireland and seven for the Lions.
The tour is a chance to hone systems and blood youngsters like Munster prop James Cronin and Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion with an eye on next year.
Robbie Diack also finally gets his chance after years of production with Ulster, starting on the blindside alongside Chris Henry and highly-rated number eight Jordi Murphy from Leinster.
They should initially have their work cut out against an Argentinian pack that boast Stormers lock Manuel Carizza and impressive number eight Benjamin Macome.
Martin Landajo feels like the successor to Agustin Pichot at scrum-half based on his performances so far at Test level. NicolÃ¡s SÃ¡nchez and Joaquin Tuculet have both spent time in the Top 14. Argentina's teamsheet might not be instantly recognisable but there is talent in their ranks.
But even a full-strength Argentina side with FernÃ¡ndez Lobbe, Matera, Figallo, Agulla and Bosch would have their work cut out against Ireland. It feels like a challenge too far.
Ones to Watch:
For Argentina: The hype around Santiago Cordero is worth believing. Making his Test breakthrough last year, the fact that Cordero hasn't been snapped up by a side in Europe is surprising. Quick and incredibly elusive, Ireland cannot afford to give him any space. Taking on Andrew Trimble and Simon Zebo will provide him with a stern examination.
For Ireland: No pressure on Darren Cave, but not many people have worn the Irish 13 jersey over the last 14 years due to the impact of the most capped Test player of all time. The Ulster centre definitely has talent, no dispute. He's also fortunate enough to be the first player to audition for the position ahead of McFadden, Payne and Henshaw. It's a chance he cannot afford to pass up.
Head to Head: Argentina's only uncapped player in Resistencia will be tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera, going up against bright young prospect Jack McGrath. Argentina's scrummaging pedigree is renowned but the young combo of Herrera and Lucas Noguera Paz will have their work cut out against the experience of Mike Ross. Leinster and Ireland are currently enjoying a resurgence when it comes to their depth in the position, with McGrath already proving his worth. This will be a decent test in an abrasive atmosphere.
2012: Ireland won 46-24 in Dublin
2010: Ireland won 29-9 in Dublin
2008: Ireland won 17-3 in Dublin
2007: Argentina won 30-15 in Paris
2007: Argentina won 16-0 in Buenos Aires
2007: Argentina won 22-20 in Santa Fe
2004: Ireland won 21-19 in Dublin
2003: Ireland won 16-15 in Adelaide
Prediction: Based on the experience of the two sides and Ireland's outfit, the visitors should start their tour with a strong win after a slow start. Ireland by 15.
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 JerÃ³nimo De la Fuente, 12 Gabriel Ascarate, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 NicolÃ¡s SÃ¡nchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 TomÃ¡s De la Vega, 6 Rodrigo Baez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 MatÃas Cortese, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 MatÃas Alemanno, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 TomÃ¡s Cubelli, 22 Santiago GonzÃ¡lez Iglesias, 23 Lucas GonzÃ¡lez Amorosino
Ireland: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden
Date: Saturday, June 7
Venue: Estadio Centenario, Resistencia
Kickoff: 15:40 (local, 18:40 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)