Sexton one of five key Irish absentees

Ireland's Johnny Sexton at a training session on Wednesday. The fly-half has been ruled out of today's World Cup quarter-final against Argentina.
Ireland's Johnny Sexton at a training session on Wednesday. The fly-half has been ruled out of today's World Cup quarter-final against Argentina.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Irish eyes were on fly-half Johnny Sexton yesterday, willing him to inspire their injury-hit side to victory over a rampaging Argentina and secure the men in green their first Rugby World Cup semi-final place.

But in the afternoon came the bad news: Sexton was ruled out of today's quarter-final due to a groin injury.

Sexton felt uncomfortable after training on Friday and scans revealed a minor adductor strain. Ian Madigan will start at fly-half against Argentina and Paddy Jackson comes on to the bench.

The Irish will now have to overcome the loss of five key players to beat Argentina.

Joe Schmidt's team topped Pool D last week, winning 24-9 against second-placed France.

But that victory came at a cost.

Lock and skipper Paul O'Connell and flanker Peter O'Mahony suffered tournament-ending injuries.

Then, star flanker Sean O'Brien picked up a one-week suspension for punching Pascal Pape.

The backline are already without influential centre Jared Payne, who has a foot fracture.

Iain Henderson comes in to the second row to partner Devin Toner, with Jordi Murphy and Chris Henry filling the flanking vacancies left by O'Mahony and O'Brien. Jamie Heaslip captains the side from No. 8.

Argentina reached the last four in the 2007 World Cup, having beaten Ireland in the pool stage. They have looked a dangerous team this time, only losing 16-26 to New Zealand.

Scrum-half Martin Landajo is one of a host of regulars recalled by coach Daniel Hourcade after a second-string side posted a 64-19 win over Namibia in their final pool game last week.

Landajo will be partnered at half-back by Nicolas Sanchez.

Veteran Juan Martin Hernandez lines up in midfield alongside Matias Moroni, playing in the absence of the suspended Marcelo Bosch.

"It's a do-or-die game, very tough and tricky," said Hourcade. "We were preparing for this game.

"Ireland have confirmed what they've been doing over the last two years, winning the last two Six Nations, clearly the best and playing very well."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline 'Sexton one of five key Irish absentees'. Print Edition | Subscribe