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caution Andy Farrell has missed a chance to improve our rugby fortunes with his latest team selection

To do well at the World Cup we will need two quality, proven, players in every position.

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Andy Farrell has won 13 of his 18 matches as Ireland head coach (Brian Lawless/PA)

Andy Farrell has won 13 of his 18 matches as Ireland head coach (Brian Lawless/PA)

Andy Farrell has won 13 of his 18 matches as Ireland head coach (Brian Lawless/PA)

Andy Farrell has missed a chance to improve our rugby fortunes with his chosen XV to face Argentina at the Aviva Stadium.

When I heard him talk during the week about “we must respect Argentina”, I knew we were going to put out very close to our strongest team to ensure that we won the game.

Of course, every Irish rugby fan has respect for Argentina – they’ve put us out of the World Cup three times for God’s sake.

But if it is a choice between winning this afternoon or finding out that five younger players are up to the Test level, or more importantly that they aren’t, well then I’d have taken the latter course.

To do well at the World Cup, and remember it is now less than two years away, we will need two quality, proven, players in every position.

We’ve a group containing the world champions South Africa and Scotland before we head to our ‘glass ceiling’ of the quarter-final, where we’ll surely be playing New Zealand or France.

There’s every chance that in that quarter-final we will be without two or three of the favoured first XV because of injury. When, if not today, are we going to find out which of the rest of the group is good enough for that level?

What is the point of playing the entire Leinster pack against Argentina, with Iain Henderson of Ulster bolted on? We know this pack are good, they proved it last weekend against the All Blacks.

They will prove it again when playing for Leinster in the Heineken Cup in a few weeks. Why did Farrell not give other lads, like prop Finlay Bealham and back-row Gavin Coombes, a shot?

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Connacht's Finlay Bealham can't hide his disappointment. Photo: Sportsfile

Connacht's Finlay Bealham can't hide his disappointment. Photo: Sportsfile

Connacht's Finlay Bealham can't hide his disappointment. Photo: Sportsfile

Bealham was a sub prop in the win over the All Blacks and did very well when he came on. Yet, he is discarded now for Tom O’Toole. It makes no sense. Cian Healy is also a sub. What on earth does Cian have to prove to anyone in this match?

Speaking of an all-Leinster pack, the one guy left out is second-row Ryan Baird. I cannot believe that.

I was proved right with Ronan Kelleher last week, and I’ll be proved right with Baird, he is going to be a huge player with Ireland in the future.

This is just the match for him to get international experience, but he’s not even getting changed!

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And why is Hugo Keenan at full-back? Hugo’s form of late is such that he is now one of Irish rugby’s ‘Holy Trinity’ with Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong. They play when it matters and no one even thinks about that. So if Hugo plays well. Well, that’s Hugo. In the unlikely event of him playing badly, he’ll be forgiven and he’ll start against Wales in the first Six Nations match next February. What is the point?

Why wasn’t either Jordan Larmour or Simon Zebo given a start? Jordan was the golden boy of Irish rugby two years ago, Simon was that figure about three years before that again.

It can be hard to come down from those heights to be a squad man. Either man should have been given a go at proving that he still has a lot to offer.

Let me warn Andy about one thing. After the Argentina game, his next 10 matches with Ireland are the five games in the 2022 Six Nations and five games in New Zealand.

The word is that as well as the three Tests already planned against the Kiwis next July, we’re going to play the Maoris and one of their Super Rugby teams.

I’ve toured New Zealand with both Ireland and the Lions. Those midweek matches down there are mini-Tests of their own, you’ve a load of young bucks on the opposition wanting to make a name for themselves by taking down the tourists.

They are going to be brutal matches, and won’t the national team be just waiting for us after last weekend too.

Andy’s only chance to look at players might be against Italy at home in the Six Nations, where he should be able to rest four or five and still get the win.

But just one match of that type carries the danger of lads playing for themselves – not the team.

I really would have given four or five lads a start in this game. The one who gets his chance is Ulster winger Robert Baloucoune. He has looked a really hot prospect when playing for his province and now he gets a go in green.

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Ireland’s Robert Baloucoune made a try-scoring debut during the summer (Donall Farmer/PA)

Ireland’s Robert Baloucoune made a try-scoring debut during the summer (Donall Farmer/PA)

Ireland’s Robert Baloucoune made a try-scoring debut during the summer (Donall Farmer/PA)

I hope Robert gets a decent bit of service and can strut his stuff because he has the talent to succeed.

It’s hard to know where Argentina are. They are usually the opposite of Ireland, they come good in World Cup year and have a few bad results in the years in between.

I expect Ireland to win this match handily enough, after a decent scrap among the forwards for the first 20 minutes.

But what will that prove? Certainly nothing as valuable as finding out how the team might have gone with Coombes, Baird, Bealham and Craig Casey all getting their chance with Baloucoune.

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