Talk of revenge for Cardiff two years ago will fill many a column inch between now and Ireland’s meeting with Argentina on Saturday, but CJ Stander insists it isn’t a primary motivation for Joe Schmidt and his squad.
Sunday, October 18, 2015, remains by a considerable distance the most disappointing day of the Schmidt era and this weekend’s Test at the Aviva Stadium will mark the first time Ireland have faced the South Americans since that 43-20 quarter-final loss in the Welsh capital.
An opportunity for atonement, surely?
“Not really for the team,” said the back row. “Only the supporters will really think that way. For the team, we haven’t played them for the last two years and I think that we’ve moved on. We need to concentrate on them especially, but it’s also pushing on from South Africa, where we had a good game, our plan worked well, we controlled the game.
“You can’t really look back to (2015) because we’ve had a lot of changes (against Fiji) and we know we can do a better job. There were a lot of lessons in the game. A lot of new players and experienced boys learned a lot. Fiji controlled the game well. You learn more from these games than a big win. We need to move on now.”
Stander’s dismissal of past events isn’t surprising. His Ireland debut was still some way off when the national team succumbed to the Pumas two years ago and the swift rate of change is evident in the fact that he and five other Munster players who played in a PRO12 defeat of Cardiff the day before that will likely feature in Dublin this week.
Among them may be John Ryan who has returned to Ireland camp after a week spent with the province rehabbing a calf injury. Joey Carbery, however, is out for the foreseeable future having fractured his wrist during the 23-20 defeat of the Islanders.
If 2015 is something to forget, for Stander, then 2019 is a topic of conversation for another day.
While Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika talk at length about their goals for the next World Cup, in Japan, Ireland’s players and coaches are more circumspect. Not so much a difference in ethos so much as variations in media management and perception.
Stander admitted as much. And it isn’t anything to do with superstition either.
“It’s not about jinxing yourself, but you need to put down goals for yourself, surely,” he explained. “If that is one of your long-term goals then these games now and the Six Nations are your short-term goals towards that.
“I have learned that you need to take your opportunities in this jersey and enjoy it, work hard for it, and put a marker down because you can walk into camp thinking you are going to be in the team and suddenly you are at the back of the bus and waiting for an opportunity again.”
Some of those given a rare opportunity against Fiji may be facing into just such a scenario now as Schmidt turns back to his tried and trusted and Ireland seek a seventh straight win in what is the last of their three November series games.
The difference between the looseness against Fiji and the clinical and efficient humbling of South Africa the week before was astronomical and, though Schmidt apparently dissected the last game with a preternatural calm, there will be an expectation that Ireland deliver a tighter, more controlled display this time.
“Look, there was a lot of great stuff in the game and also stuff we can work on,” said Stander, who assumed the captaincy for the first time when he featured off the bench against Fiji.
“For a lot of guys it was their first opportunity and a lot of guys got another chance to put up their hand.
“Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t. What we did well we controlled and the stuff we didn’t control we could have maybe kept the ball... But it shows we have good depth.
“It’s unfortunate Joey got injured. He controlled the game very well and ran unbelievable lines. Rhys (Ruddock) was a great captain until he went off.
“Even the bench, when Cian (Healy) came on, he just showed the impact he can make. It doesn’t matter if he starts or gets on the bench.
“It just shows we have depth and that in the future we’ll see if we can learn from these opportunities.”
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