Before the World Cup, Paul O'Connell and Johnny Sexton were the two key Irish players. If anything happened to either of those two - Ireland would be up against it. Now that we face into that scenario without the Munster captain Peter O'Mahony, Jared Payne, or Sean O'Brien, things aren't dead - but Sexton's withdrawal this morning hurts.
Ireland's forwards coach Simon Easterby faced the media this morning, and gave an update on Sexton's health. A second scan revealed a minor adductor strain. That he was close to playing tomorrow would suggest that Sexton could come back into the team should Ireland manage to beat Argentina.
Sexton managed to train on Friday, but Easterby was reluctant to confirm whether Sexton would be fit for the following weekend:
I don't know. I couldn't answer that right now. I think the most important thing is that we get through this week and that's our only focus. Beyond Sunday, we haven't looked that far. That's been our focus throughout the competition.
He trained yesterday but unfortunately, it’s one of those things in his position as well having to kick the ball as much as he does and be very accurate, it meant that it wasn’t quite right.
We weren’t prepared to take that risk heading into such a big game.
It's nice to know that player welfare is still a priority, but now it's time to get behind Madigan and Ireland in their quest to reach the semi-finals for the first time.
Argentina are still beatable with the strong team Ireland is putting out - but Ireland's next generation of leaders - Conor Murray, Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw, Rory Best, Iain Henderson, and Jamie Heaslip need to stand up and cover the massive gap in experience.
Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE