Ireland will run out at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday lunchtime looking to shake a gorilla off their back, but the long wait to reach a first World Cup semi-final in the country’s history, may just go agonisingly on.
Argentina are the obstacle that lie in front of the Six Nations champions, an opponent they have defeated on the last five occasions, yet have lost to in 2/3 World Cup encounters.
A full strength Irish side would rightly be fancied to extend their winning streak over the South Americans and finally win a knockout game on rugby union’s grandest stage, but Joe Schmidt’s walking wounded are anything but.
The Irish have lost skipper Paul O’Connell for the rest of the tournament thanks to a career-ending hamstring injury and their offensive talisman Jonny Sexton who is a late withdrawal, having aggravated his groin in training for the match.
The casualty count doesn’t stop there however. One influential flanker, Peter O’Mahony, is also injured, while Sean O’Brien’s retrospective ban is another huge blow to the back row.
Meanwhile, having only lost to New Zealand in the pool stages by a margin of just 10 points, Argentina’s head coach Daniel Hourcade is able to name his strongest available XV, with the added luxury of making 10 changes from their last Pool match.
Ireland remain the narrowest of 8/13 favourites ahead of the 6/4 Pumas, but in the circumstances those betting with heads over hearts will see value in the underdogs – especially in light of Sexton’s late pull out.
Argentina are renowned for their physical approach, yet their development into a genuine force in world rugby has coincided with an expansion in their approach.
Having beaten South Africa in Johannesburg this year already, the Pumas ran in 22 tries in the Pool phase and if they are on song, they have plenty of weapons the depleted Irish.
The pick of those is Racing Metro winger Juan Imhoff, scorer of three tries at the finals already.
Argentina’s number 11 is an 11/4 shot to add to his tally in the match. As the match odds suggest, it’s set to be a titanic struggle and given the freshness of their lineup, a narrow win for the Pumas could be the best bet.
This is especially the case for Ladbrokes customers, as the bookmakers are boosting Argentina to win by five points or more, from 5/2 out to 3/1.
Ireland to win by 10 points or more Was 7/4 Now 9/4
Ireland to win by 15 points or more Was 7/2 Now 5/1
Australia v Scotland: Sunday 16:00 – Twickenham
There is no great surprise to see that the Wallabies are the overwhelming 1/9 favourites to complete the semi-final picture at Scotland’s expense.
Scotland are 7/1 chances to seriously upset the applecart, but even in a World Cup which has provided the shock of all shocks, Vern Cotter’s men are up against it.
Australia have already defeated England and Wales en route to this clash and although the Thistle have earned their right, they look destined to come up short, as they did against South Africa in the Pool phase.
Michael Cheika’s side winning with a 15-point handicap, looks a value pick at 1/1. For all other match specials and a wide selection of markets click here.
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