Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt warned his players lining up for a Test with Argentina they risk losing their places for the following game against New Zealand if they don't perform

Dublin (AFP) - Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has warned his players lining up for Saturday’s one-off Test with Argentina they need to focus on that and not the clash with world champions New Zealand a week later.

Schmidt, who is hoping for a successful end to a remarkable year which has seen them secure the Six Nations Grand Slam and a Test series win in Australia, said they would be only human not to be thinking of the match between the top two ranked teams in the world but it could prove costly such is competition for places.

Argentina should provide a testing examination provided they are not too tired having come out of the Rugby Championship with two victories under new head coach Mario Ledesma, including their first in Australia since 1983.

“I hope everyone is looking over their shoulder,” said Schmidt referring to the players in the starting XV.

“Anyone runs a little bit harder when they hear the breathing of someone behind them.

“I don’t want them looking around. I just want them to run harder so they can keep their distance. It is up to this week’s group to keep them at bay.”

Schmidt, who is seen by some as a future coach of the All Blacks after his success with Ireland, made it clear that anyone who doesn’t meet his high standards on Saturday will have the next weekend off.

“They understand fully that any who look that far ahead (to the All Blacks match) they compromise what they deliver this weekend,” he said.

“Then as a result next week they’re really looking forward to the game but watching it from the stands, that’s not where they want to be.

“They want to have their boots and they want to be right in amongst it.”

- ‘Smart player’ -

Schmidt, whose side began the November Tests with a 54-7 thumping of Italy, said Argentina would prove challenging in many respects.

“In particular, this is our first southern hemisphere game of this series and you saw in Australia, the way that southern hemisphere rugby is played on the back of Super Rugby is worth a fair bit of freedom,” said the 53-year-old New Zealander.

“The Argentines would probably be, to a degree, a little bit more combative at the ruck than some of the other teams who tend to let a fair few rucks go and then suddenly they’ll have a crack and turn you over.

“So we’re going to have to really be on our mettle.”

Schmidt is especially wary of the Pumas’ vibrant, attack-minded backs.

Fullback Emiliano Boffelli and wings Bautista Delguy and Ramiro Moyano have the ability to cut defences to ribbons – Boffelli and Delguy scoring three tries apiece in the Rugby Championship.

“If their back three get the ball the more likely they (the Argentinians) are going to break teams open, because they’re tackle breakers, they’re line breakers and they link up in behind the line really effectively once they break the line,” said Schmidt.

“Nicolas Sanchez (the fly-half) is a weapon there as well.”

Schmidt acknowledges too that Ledesma knows the Irish players better due to his experience of playing in the northern hemisphere and is not surprised the former hooker is making waves in the coaching arena.

“He was a smart player and a good manager of people,” said Schmidt who was assistant coach at French side Clermont when Ledesma was on the playing staff

“He has already done an incredible job in broadening his experience for example with the Wallabies (when he was forwards’ coach).

“With the national team he has already compiled some good success and certainly he has the confidence of the players.”

pi/dj