Weekend’s clash between All Blacks and Pumas promise power, passion
WELLINGTON - Agence France-Presse
New Zealand All Blacks’ Cory Jane scores against Australia’s Wallabies during their Bledisloe Cup Rugby Union test match in Sydney on Aug 18. Reuters photoThere will be no shortage of power and passion when New Zealand defends its unbeaten record in a Rugby Championship third-round clash against Argentina in Wellington on Saturday.
The All Blacks have so far beaten Australia twice, despite problems with their decision making, while Argentina has taken confidence from holding South Africa to a 16-16 draw after a first round loss.
That draw in Mendoza two weeks ago showed the Pumas will not be easy to beat in their first year in the Southern Hemisphere competition.
Inspration from past
But the All Blacks, who have never lost against the Pumas, are taking inspiration from past confrontations against the Argentines, with photos of their matches splashed across the walls of their team room.
With stormy weather forecast, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said his side is relishing the prospect of an intense battle against the formidable Argentine forwards.
“Regardless of whether it’s wet or dry it’s going to be a battle up front and our boys talked about it and they’re quite excited if it is wet as it gives them a chance to get stuck in,” he said.
The All Blacks will try to shut down two key players -- captain and backrower Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez, McCaw added.
“Lobbe is certainly one of the players who gets them going. They look to him for inspiration. They key for us is to limit his effectiveness,” he said. “They’re quality players and we’ve got to make sure we don’t give them a chance to show what they can do.”
The All Blacks have made six changes including the promotion of Aaron Cruden to fly-half after Dan Carter pulled out with a groin strain.
Center Conrad Smith and prop Tony Woodcock return from injury while lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Victor Vito and wing Julian Savea come in for Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam and Hosea Gear.
Two changes for Argentina
Argentina, which has made only two changes with Hernandez and flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon back from injury, says it is looking for the “perfect” game.
“For us, the most important thing is to go one step ahead of what we did two weeks ago against South Africa,” Lobbe said when they wrapped up training on Friday.
Argentina has mixed memories about playing in Wellington where it beat Scotland 13-12 in the World Cup but also suffered their worst loss to the All Blacks, going down 93-8 in 1997.