Irish must justify favourites tag against Pumas, says Ryan

·3-min read
Ireland will start favourites against Argentina (AFP/Paul Faith)

Ireland have to perform as well when they are favourites as they are to beat Argentina on Sunday as they did as underdogs in the 29-20 win over New Zealand last weekend, said captain James Ryan.

The 25-year-old skippers the side, as he has done on several occasions since the 2019 Rugby World Cup when Johnny Sexton was injured, hoping to round off the year by extending their winning run to eight.

The Irish will face a Pumas side that ended a seven game losing streak with a 37-16 victory over hapless Italy last Saturday.

"It has probably been easier when being the underdog, that has suited Irish teams in the past," Ryan said at Wednesday's press conference.

"But we have got to be able to perform when we are not the underdog, to show we can be on top consistently and this is the first opportunity for that."

Ryan has like the Irish team prior to the winning streak had a rough time -- his largely through injuries -- as head coach Andy Farrell's strategy was queried.

Ryan, though, argues that despite poor performances especially away against England and France in the 2020 Six Nations they felt they were on the right track.

"Even the away performances against England and France we knew we were not far away and that little errors were costing us," said Ryan.

"Performances more recently have given us confidence and one could argue the Japan display (60-5 rout earlier this month) was an even better performance than the All Blacks one.

"We feel like we are going pretty well, there are things we could be a whole lot better at as well but the good thing is we feel there is a lot more in us."

- 'A bit of craic' -

Ryan -- who first caught the eye at Test level when he starred in Ireland's 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam -- says his team-mates should see Sexton's absence as an opportunity and not be deflated by it.

"Everybody else has to step up a little bit," said Ryan.

"It is an Ireland game this week and an opportunity for other guys coming in.

"When he is there that is brilliant, but when he is not there everybody has to step up and find their voices and not rely on him."

Ryan has few fears about Joey Carbery's ability to fill Sexton's boots at fly-half on Sunday.

The 26-year-old impressed in his 15 minute cameo when he came on for the injured Sexton against the All Blacks.

"He showed real steel with three kicks (penalties)," said Ryan.

"For the second one he came up to us straight away at halfway and he said 'I have the range'.

"We looked at each other as when a fly-half comes up like that it is a pretty easy decision to take (to go for goal rather than touch).

"He showed real composure."

The Pumas may have had a poor year results wise but Ryan -- who is bidding to make it three wins from three Tests against them -- is not taking them lightly.

"They pose another proper challenge," he said.

"They are very strong up front, the forward pack carry very hard, the hooker Julian Montoya is as good a player as you find in world rugby.

"The amount of turnovers he has this year is ridiculous.

"Across the board it is another big Test."

Both he and Ireland centre Garry Ringrose said the euphoria from the All Blacks victory was behind them.

However, Ringrose revealed their most high profile fan US President Joe Biden had followed up his letter wishing them luck on the eve of the All Blacks game.

"It was definitely unexpected," said Ringrose at his press conference.

"We got a letter wishing us luck and then in the team room at the hotel we were all together and he came through on Face Time.

"It was surreal, a bit of craic at the time as you can imagine.

"Joe Biden just about tops it, pretty cool!"

pi/nr

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