The following is a preview of the Round 3 Rugby Championship clash between New Zealand and Argentina at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton. The game kicks off at 5:35 PM AEST on Saturday, the 7th of September. The referee is Jérôme Garcès from France.
The All Blacks remain undefeated in the Rugby Championship. They won all six games in 2012 plus their opening two Tests against the Wallabies in 2013. They are undefeated against Los Pumas, having won 15 and drawn once. This time last year the two sides played out a surprisingly competitive game in Wellington. In wet and windy conditions All Blacks pulled away in the second half to win 21-5 after being held to a 6-5 half-time lead.
Los Pumas are proving to be a mercurial side. They were hot and cold in their late season tour in 2012 and have started the 2013 Rugby Championship in similar fashion. The Pumas were blown away 73–13 by the Springboks in South Africa in Round 1 before falling just short in a competitive 17–22 loss in Mendoza in Round 2. Their Rugby Championship form this year bears resemblance to 2012, when they were defeated comfortably by the Springboks in Round 1 before bouncing back with a draw in Round 2.
Below are the most recent results between New Zealand and Argentina.
2012: Argentina 15-54 New Zealand
2012: New Zealand 21-5 Argentina
2011: New Zealand 33–10 Argentina
2006: Argentina 19-25 New Zealand
Dan Carter has recovered from a calf injury and will make his first start of the tournament. Debutant Francis Saili joins the starting fifteen at the expense of Ma’a Nonu, who has been battling an ankle injury. In one change to the forwards, Charlie Faumuina comes in for the injured Owen Franks. For the reserve fly-half, Aaron Cruden and Tom Taylor are injured, however Beauden Barrett is again available and has been named on the bench at the expense of Colin Slade.
1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Andrew Hore, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Samuel Whitelock, 6. Steven Luatua, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 8. Kieran Read, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Daniel Carter, 11. Julian Savea, 12. Francis Saili, 13. Conrad Smith, 14. Ben Smith, 15. Israel Dagg
Reserves: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Ben Franks, 19. Jeremy Thrush, 20. Sam Cane, 21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22. Beauden Barrett, 23. Charles Piutau
Loose forward Leonardo Senatore has been banned for seven matches for biting South African lock Eben Etzebeth during the Mendoza Test two weeks ago. In better news, captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has recovered from a calf injury and will make his first start of the campaign. Fullback Juan Martin Fernandez also returns to the squad after missing out last round with injury. In other changes, Felipe Contepomi drops to the bench in favour of Santiago Fernandez while Manuel Carizza comes in for Mariano Galarza. Pablo Matera, who was cited for eye gouging in Mendoza, was found not guilty and will start on Saturday.
15. Juan Martin Hernandez, 14. Gonzalo Camacho, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Santiago Fernandez, 11. Horacio Agulla, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Martin Landajo, 8. Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7. Pablo Matera, 6. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 5. Julio Faras Cabello, 4. Manuel Carizza, 3. Juan Figallo, 2. Guinazu, 1. Marcos Ayerza
Reserves: 16. Agustin Creevy, 17. Nahuel Lobo, 18. Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19. Mariano Galarza, 20. Benjamin Macome, 21. Tomas Cubelli, 22. Felipe Contepomi, 23. Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
The New Zealand media have reported on the need for the All Blacks to maintain their discipline to avoid being dragged into the combative tactics used by Los Pumas in their spiteful clash against the Springboks. The All Blacks will also be wary of underestimating Los Pumas after having to work hard to beat them in Wellington this time last year.
Argentina boast a very physical pack and are strong at scrum time, but with Felipe Contepomi on the bench they are far less experienced in the backs than New Zealand. Granted, Francis Saili is making his debut, but he will be flanked by the vastly experienced Dan Carter and Conrad Smith. Steven Luatua will have his work cut out for him against the hard-working Argentine loose forwards.
Los Pumas will be excited to have captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe back after he missed the first two Tests with injury. Discipline will be key this weekend as their indiscipline two weeks ago cost them the win. They will also be looking to put in a complete 80-minute performance after picking up a habit of fading late in games to concede soft points.
The +26.5 line for Los Pumas is the same as last year when the two sides played in Wellington. Argentina covered the line comfortably that year, however the game was played in wet and windy conditions. The All Blacks won by 23 points in the 2011 World Cup, which is probably a better gauge of what to expect on Saturday. I can see the winning margin falling either side of 26.5, but in dry conditions I wouldn’t bet against the All Blacks from covering the line. One option is to back the All Blacks to win by 16-20 at 6.50 odds, 21-25 at 5.50 odds and 26-30 at 5.50 odds (bet365). Depending on the conditions prior to kick-off you could optionally also back either the 11-15 or 31-35 winning margins.
For more alternative markets, the 3.50 odds (bet365) on Argentina to score first caught my eye because they tend to be fast starters and slow finishers. They scored first the last time they played New Zealand and they scored a first-minute try against the Springboks two weeks ago. The caveat to this is both of those games were in Argentina. Nevertheless, looking further afield I found the market “Team Scoring First Wins Game”. The “No” selection pays 4.00 odds, which is better value as I do expect the All Blacks to win regardless.
You can compare the latest bookmaker odds for the Rugby Championship in the live bookmaker odds section.