Hickie relishing Pumas clash
September 28, 2007
Denis Hickie will draw inspiration from the enormity of the prize at stake as he prepares for probably the final match of his career.
Ireland are just 80 minutes away from a bewildering World Cup group exit that has left coach, players and nation with puzzled looks as they attempt to explain the team's shocking decline.
Pouring over the Pool D table with calculators in hand, a precarious route into the quarter-finals has been plotted against in-form Argentina at Parc des Princes on Sunday.
They must defeat the Pumas by at least seven points, while scoring a minimum of four tries, in a last-ditch effort to avoid becoming the first Irish team not to progress beyond the group stage.
The challenge represents last-chance saloon for Ireland and Hickie, who is retiring from all rugby at the end of the tournament.
But rather than fear seeing his career meet an inglorious end as Ireland's dismal World Cup is finally put out of its misery, Hickie is relishing the do-or-die scenario that has unfolded.
``This possibly being my last game does put a bit of pressure on me, but I'd got my head around that before the tournament had started,'' he said.
``I don't feel a huge amount of added pressure just because this might be my last match. The last game could have been my last one as well.
``I'm aware that things are stacked against us, so the reality of what defeat means is facing me if we don't get what we need to against Argentina.
``But that just makes me look forward to the game even more.''
Argentina's tryline has to be breached in this World Cup and given Ireland's lack of penetration throughout the tournament, that proud record is likely to
A watertight defence has become a hallmark of the Pumas' game, but Hickie warns they will arrive in Paris with greater ambition than simply to protect their whitewash for 80 minutes.
``The pressure will come at certain points in the game. At that point you can start panicking and drop your heads, or respond,'' he said.
``When that comes, we must stick to our guns and the gameplan. We must keep playing and not go into our shells.
``You can't change your plan just because the pressure is on. The pressure comes on in every game, especially the close one.
``Matches between ourselves and Argentina have always been close.''
Hickie, who will be winning his 62nd cap on Sunday, has been restored to the starting line-up after being dropped for the 25-3 defeat to France.
Ulster's Andrew Trimble paid the price for his perceived defensive frailties against Les Bleus, while Hickie's international strike rate of 29 tries also convinced coach Eddie O'Sullivan his best finisher must play against Argentina.
As one of Ireland's most dangerous players, the 31-year-old is ready to spearhead the team's last win-or-bust effort to stay in the World Cup.
``Wingers are always under pressure to score to a certain extent - that's the nature of the position,'' said Hickie.
``Scoring tries is what we're there to do, certainly to the lay man.
``I have to believe I can produce. If I didn't believe that then I shouldn't be playing.
``We have to get as much ball as we can and get it to whoever is in the best position to score.
``I like to think I bring experience to the party - I've played a lot of big games like this over the course of my career.
``The squad is quite balanced and the general skills and abilities of the players are good throughout.
``People will always have strengths and I'd like to think I've been around a bit - that helps decision making and such like. I'm confident in what I can do.''