This article previews Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash between the All Blacks and Pumas at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. The game kicks off at 5:35 PM AEST on Saturday the 8th of September.
New Zealand have played fourteen Tests against Argentina, winning thirteen and drawing one. Historically, Argentina have been far more competitive at home than in New Zealand.
Coach Steve Hansen has recalled Julian Savea, Victor Vito and Brodie Retallick to the starting line-up. Tony Woodcock and Conrad Smith will also start after returning from rib and eye injuries, respectively. Dan Carter has been a late withdrawal due to a tight left calf. Aaron Cruden will start in his place with Beauden Barrett added to the bench.
In one other change, prop Charlie Faumuina replaces Ben Franks on the reserves.
15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Aaron Cruden, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Victor Vito, 5-Brodie Retallick, 4-Luke Romano, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Keven Mealamu, 1-Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett, Piri Weepu, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Charlie Faumuina, Andrew Hore.
Argentina welcome back fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez and openside-flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon from injury. Hernandez missed the last Test with a groin injury, while Leguizamon missed the first two tests with a stomach injury.
Martin Rodriguez, Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Horacio Agulla, Juan Martin Hernandez, Nicolas Vergallo, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Julio Farias Cabello, Patricio Albacete, Manuel Carizza, Juan Figallo, Eusebio Guinazu, Rodrigo Roncero.
Argentina have showed they they will be no pushovers in this competition after securing a 16-16 draw against South Africa in Mendoza two weeks ago. They led 13-3 at halftime and will be disappointed they couldn’t go on to secure their first ever victory over the Springboks.
Los Pumas have logged plenty of frequent flyer miles in the last four weeks. They have flown to Cape Town, then back to Mendoza, and now to Wellington, but not before a six hour delay in Chile. The team was tired and weary when they arrived in New Zealand on Monday, which prompted them to cancel a planned media session that day. They now face an All Blacks side that has been in New Zealand for almost three weeks. It remains to be seen whether their tough schedule and two bruising encounters against the Springboks have taken their toll.
There shouldn’t be too many surprises as to what the Pumas will bring on Saturday. They are extremely physical in the forwards so it should be a physical battle up front. All Blacks coach Steven Hansen has said “It’s going to be real physical up front. They will play that bash game that they played [against the Springboks]. I can’t imagine them wanting to play an expansive game.”
A number of the All Blacks squad were released to play in the ITM Cup last week, with the core players rested. Defensively the All Blacks are supreme at the moment. They have shut out their opposition in two of the last three games, conceding only one try during that stretch. Some members of the Australian media have said the All Blacks performance at Eden Park was one of their best, but I don’t actually agree with that. While their defence was immense they fluffed a number of try scoring opportunities, showing a lack of patience and composure as they got near the try line. They were arguably 2-3 tries short of where they should have finished against the Wallabies. “We’re trying to play a game that has high intensity and high accuracy but we haven’t quite managed the high accuracy ourselves yet,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said after the Eden Park Test.
While the All Blacks will be without Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams, they lose very little (if anything) by having Aaron Cruden and Conrad Smith playing in their place. The last time Cruden started with Barrett on the bench the All Blacks went on to beat Ireland 60-0. Only injury has kept Conrad Smith out of the squad until now, and the All Blacks will welcome his flair and experience.
A few pundits have asked whether the All Blacks will be complacent, but I don’t anticipate they will be. The All Blacks were pushed during their 33-10 victory over Los Pumas last year in the World Cup. The All Blacks will also have taken stock of Argentina’s impressive draw against South Africa two weeks ago. The All Blacks have also learned a recent lesson over complacency in June when they nearly lost the second Test against Ireland.
I expect this Test to play out like it did in the World Cup last year. Argentina will keep New Zealand honest for the first 60 or so minutes before the All Blacks start finding holes in the tiring Pumas defence. With the head-to-head odds at 1.01 and the 13+ odds at 1.18, it’s hard to find much value in the most obvious selections. My best bet is a pair of equal stake wagers with Sportsbet in the ‘Alternative winning margin’ market: New Zealand to win by 11-20 at 4.20 odds and New Zealand to win by 21-30 at 4.00 odds. If Argentina maintain possession with the ball kept close to the forwards then the 11-20 margin is more likely, while if Argentina kick the ball away like the Wallabies did a fortnight ago then the 21-30 margin is more likely.
Israel Dagg is having a fantastic competition. The All Blacks fullback is solid as a rock under the high ball and he is devastating when he has the ball in space. Dagg scored in both Tests against Australia and he’s a fair chance of making it three from three on Saturday. You can get 2.00 odds on him to score a try with Sportsbet.
For a cheeky high odds wager I offer the following Scorecast bet with Sportsbet: First tryscorer: Israel Dagg / New Zealand by 21-30 at 31.00 odds.
Click here to compare the latest All Blacks vs. Pumas odds.