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Pumas full of belief for Irish test in final

In it to repeat it: Argentina will be aiming to repeat their title success of a year ago when they face Irish Legends in the World Rugby Classic final tonight (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Classic Pumas should be classed as favourites as they prepare to lock horns with the Irish Legends in their quest to retain the World Rugby Classic title.

That is the view of Rodolfo Ventura, the Argentina manager, ahead of the defending champions highly anticipated Classic final against their Irish counterparts at North Field, National Sports Centre, tonight at 8.30pm.

The Pumas’ passage to the final was far from simple having been pushed to their limits in a bruising semi-final encounter, with the kicking of Gonzalo Gutiérrez Taboada ultimately proving pivotal, as Argentina overturned a 6-5 half-time deficit to finally tame the Classic Lions 11-6.

Despite the scare, having seen his side prevail, Ventura is confident the Pumas can build on that momentum and live up to his self-imposed favourites tag by getting their hands on the silverware once again.

“It was a very passionate game and we knew this would perhaps be our hardest game of the entire tournament,” he said immediately after the semi-final encounter. “Thankfully, we managed to win and I’m proud we can now try to win another title.”

“I believe we are favourites, but only if we have complete confidence in ourselves.

“You have to take into account that we will be up against a very tough opponent who also want to win.

“However, if we play to our strengths and execute our game plan properly, then things should go more smoothly and hopefully we can win that second title in a row.”

But while Ventura believes the Pumas will head into the encounter as favourites, he is also acutely aware of the threat of a somewhat unknown Irish Legends outfit, returning to the Classic after a 25-year absence.

“Ireland are a little bit of an unknown and we have to be wary of that,” he added. “I noticed that they want to play wide, similarly to us, but perhaps we will see a different side to them in this match.

“We will continue to do what we know because we have to concentrate fully on ourselves and not what our opponents might do.

“If we can play to the level that we know we are capable of, then I think it is upon us to win the game.

“Winning the final would give us our fourth champions star on our badge. We come here every year not only to enjoy Bermuda, but also to win the championship — that is our aim.”

For the Irish Legends, victory would complete a memorable return to the World Rugby Classic with arguably very few people tipping them to go all the way and to be crowned champions at the outset of the competition.

However, buoyed by an impressive 24-10 win over France Classic Rugby on Sunday and a hard-fought follow-up 10-7 semi-final success over Rugby Canada on Wednesday, perhaps some of those pre-tournament sceptics may now just be converted into believers.

“It was a tough game,” said Len Dineen, the Ireland manager, after the win over Canada. “Our guys were just so, so tough and they dug it out. We have a lot of experienced guys in our squad and they came through in the end. We’re really, really happy and can now look forward to Saturday.”