Targeting Johnny Sexton is not Argentina's gameplan

Argentina have refused to hunt down Johnny Sexton in Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final despite Ireland’s fly-half suffering lingering groin trouble.

The Pumas’ head coach Daniel Hourcade and former captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe both rejected the all-out assault on linchpin Sexton that France launched last week.

Sexton hobbled out of Ireland’s 24-9 victory over France in Cardiff last Sunday and can expect more physical threat from Argentina at the Millennium Stadium this weekend.

The Pumas admit they will treat Sexton like any other fly-half, and insist the Leinster star must be fully fit if head coach Joe Schmidt has enough faith to name him in the starting line-up.

“They are a team that we respect a lot but they have weak points and we’re going to attack them through those,” said Argentina boss Hourcade.

“If he plays it’s because he’s okay. And we prepare the game thinking it’s the best team of Ireland, and that’s with Sexton 100%.

“I don’t want to have any surprises. We have a gameplan and we are maybe thinking about Ireland and not about a player who perhaps is not 100%.

Sexton was forced off the field in the first-half against France.
Sexton was forced off the field in the first-half against France.

“We consider Sexton is 100% fit, so it would be perhaps a mistake to go and try to find him.

“He can surprise you, because he’s a good player.

“We cannot just focus on him, thinking that he’s not fit.”

Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade.
Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade.

Argentina have restored 10 players after their straightforward victory over Namibia last weekend and are at full strength barring the banned Marcelo Bosch to face Ireland.

Toulon back-rower Fernandez Lobbe backed Hourcade’s assertion that Argentina will not focus all their energies on simply trying to take Sexton out of the equation this weekend.

Sexton’s fitness was touch-and-go all week, but Ireland have still selected the influential outside-half from the off and are fully confident about his fitness.

Targeting Johnny Sexton is not Argentina's gameplan

Lobbe believes Ireland boss Schmidt is not a man to take unnecessary risks on the fitness of his top players.

“I think with the great coach Ireland has at the moment, if he trusts Sexton is able to play at 10, it’s because he is 10 out of 10 or 9 out of 10,” said Fernandez Lobbe.

“He wouldn’t play Sexton in such an important game thinking that he won’t be able to fulfill the 80 minutes.

“For us, of course, we are going to focus on Sexton a lot, not because he has an injury but because he is the main player on their attack.

“He either plays quick, slow, kicks, plays with the dummy, he’s a very, very good player.

“He’s done it a lot of times before. He knows how to play this type of game.

“As 15 players, we need to be aggressive on defence, whoever gets the ball.”

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