The following is a preview of the Round 5 Rugby Championship clash between Argentina and New Zealand at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, in Argentina. The game kicks off at 8.40 AM AEST on Sunday, the 29th of September. The referee is Jaco Peyper from South Africa.
With the competition in its second year, Los Pumas are still looking for their first win in the Rugby Championship while the All Blacks have yet to lose. In Round 3 New Zealand beat Argentina 28-13 in wet conditions in Hamilton. Below are each side’s 2013 results so far.
South Africa 73-13 Argentina
Argentina 17-22 South Africa
New Zealand 28-13 Argentina
Australia 14-13 Argentina
Australia 29-47 New Zealand
New Zealand 27-16 Australia
New Zealand 28-13 Argentina
New Zealand 29-15 South Africa
In their 17 previous head-to-head meetings, the All Blacks have won 16 and drawn 1. The two sides played in La Plata this time last year, with New Zealand prevailing 54-15. This one-sided result came on the back of a competitive performance from Argentina in Wellington a few weeks earlier, when the All Blacks won 21-5 after being held to a 6-5 lead at halftime.
Argentina named their 22-man squad early in the week, with six changes to the side that played Australia. Patricio Albacete has recovered from an injury he picked up in Round 1 and returns at lock. In one other change to the forwards, hooker Eusebio Guinazu gets the start ahead of Agustin Creevy. In the backs, Martin Landajo gets the start over Tomas Cubelli at halfback, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino comes in for Horacio Agulla on the right wing, while Santiago Fernandez and Marcelo Bosch replace Felipe Contepomi and Gonzalo Tiesi in the centres.
15. Juan Martin Hernandez, 14. Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Santiago Fernandez, 11. Juan Imhoff, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Martin Landajo, 8. Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7. Pablo Matera, 6. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 5. Julio Farias Cabello, 4. Patricio Albacete, 3. Juan Figallo, 2. Eusebio 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. Horacio Agulla
Dan Carter’s shoulder injury saw Tom Taylor recalled to the extended squad. So far this year Carter has been ruled out with a broken hand, a calf strain and now an AC joint in his shoulder. It makes you wonder how fit he will be come the 2015 World Cup. The usual second choice fly-half Aaron Cruden has recovered from a knee injury and will start with Beauden Barrett named on the bench.
While he won’t play this weekend, Richie McCaw is in the touring squad so the only available openside flanker in the side is Sam Cane. Should Cane pick up an injury the All Blacks would be forced to play Kieran Read or Liam Messam at No. 7. Hooker Andrew Hore returns to the squad with Keven Mealamu named on the bench. It appears that Dane Coles is being rested for the Springboks clash next week.
In one change to the bench, Steven Luatua has been added in place of Matt Todd.
15. Israel Dagg, 14. Ben Smith, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Kieran Read (captain), 7. Sam Cane, 6. Liam Messam, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Brodie Retallick, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Andrew Hore, 1. Tony Woodcock
Reserves: 16. Keven Mealamu, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Charlie Faumuina, 19. Steven Luatua, 20. Steven Luatua, 21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22. Beauden Barrett, 23. Charles Piutau.
Los Pumas remain winless in the Rugby Championship after falling 13-14 to the Wallabies in Perth two weeks ago. The wet and windy conditions hampered their game, however they did enjoy supremacy in the scrum and they dominated possession for much of the second half as they kept the Wallabies scoreless in the second spell.
The All Blacks are in the box seat to win the Rugby Championship courtesy of their bonus point win over South Africa in Eden park. They are four points ahead of the Springboks, so if each team wins this weekend the Round 6 clash in Johannesburg will be a title decider. The All Blacks were helped by Bismarck du Plessis’ sending off in Auckland, however the Springboks made a number of errors in that clash and I thought overall the All Blacks were the better side. They soaked up the Springboks pressure well and ran out comfortable winners (by All Blacks vs. Springboks standards).
Injuries to the fly-half position continue to haunt the All Blacks, however they have a lot of depth in this position, with Tom Taylor proving to be more than capable on his debut. Beauden Barrett is also solid – as shown by his excellent outing against the Springboks – so the All Blacks won’t be rattled by Carter absence.
The All Blacks have stated their goals are to weather the passionate onslaught from Los Pumas and counter the boisterous crowd. They managed to do so this time last year, running out 54-15 winners in La Plata and I expect them to do so again, but not by such an extreme margin. The best way to quieten the crowd is to get off to a fast start, so the All Blacks have highlighted the need to start strongly this weekend.
Betting on Argentina games is difficult because Los Pumas are so mercurial. For this reason I would tread lightly. In recent history they have been consistently less competitive against the All Blacks than against the Wallabies and Springboks. Since 2011 the margins have been 15 (wet conditions), 39, 16 (wet conditions) and 23 points, so I would back the All Blacks 13+ at 1.67 (Sportsbet / IASbet).
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