Ireland’s win against France last weekend means they’ve already sidestepped facing New Zealand in the quarter-finals, but it would be a mistake to underestimate Argentina’s threat.
Win, and New Zealand coach Joe Schmidt will have carried Ireland into their first ever Rugby World Cup semi-final. Lose, and there’s no hiding from the perennial World Cup underachievers tag.
Ireland have lost a colossus in captain Paul O’Connell, and their seasoned fly half Johnny Sexton is now ruled out as well.
All of which makes the ‘easier’ tie with Argentina far from a foregone conclusion.
The Pumas ran the All Blacks close in their opening match, before easily securing their place as pool stage runners-up.
Juan Martin Hernandez is coming back to the form that saw him drop kick Ireland out of the 2007 World Cup. Now at centre rather than fly half, he is still a controlling influence behind the traditionally ferocious pack.
Ireland are still the strongest northern hemisphere side left in the competition: for all the gloom surrounding O’Connell’s departure, Iain Henderson was a wonderful replacement against France last weekend, as was Ian Madigan for Johnny Sexton. Both men know they can step up when needed.
Ireland have answered every question in the tournament so far, apart from the biggest one: can this generation of players do what no Ireland side has done before?