All Blacks, Pumas primed for forward battle

Mario Ledesma (Getty)
Mario Ledesma (Getty)

Nelson - New Zealand and Argentina have set the stage for a colossal forward battle in their Rugby Championship clash in Nelson on Saturday. 

There may be a raw look about some of the All Blacks, but captain Kieran Read believes that is a good thing, as New Zealand aim to make it three wins from three. 

Pumas coach Mario Ledesma might claim his forwards are not the potent force they once were, despite their recent upset win over South Africa, but he has made them the focus of his game plan. 

He aims to deny the All Blacks counter-attacking opportunities and Read said his side are braced for what is to come. 

Eight of the All Blacks match-day 23 have seven or fewer Tests to their name with Shannon Frizell, in the muscle-man role of blindside flank, making only his second appearance. 

But Read sees the rawness as a positive. 

"We've got some fresh faces in there and they're really excited about this challenge," he said as the All Blacks wrapped up match preparations on Friday. 

"There's a spark there and we've got to make sure we turn up with it." 

Read added: "A side that knocks over the South Africans is a good side and comes here with lots of confidence and we've got to be aware of that." 

The Test will be the All Blacks' first in Nelson, a tourist town at the top of South Island and the birthplace of rugby in New Zealand. 

The All Blacks head the Rugby Championship with 10 points after the first two rounds, South Africa are second with five, a point ahead of Argentina, with Australia at the bottom of the pile. 

Argentina snapped an 11-game losing streak in the Rugby Championship with their recent win over the Springboks. 

But Ledesma said the plan that worked two weeks ago, when they built a solid lead and held off a strong-finishing South Africa, is not necessarily the way they are approaching the All Blacks where ball retention will be paramount. 

"Obviously a big one on Saturday will be turnovers," he said. 

"I think they scored eight tries from turnovers against Australia and from anywhere on the field, and that's one reason we want to keep the ball." 

The All Blacks are renowned for wearing a side down and then scoring freely in the final quarter, and Ledesma has allowed for that by picking a strong bench which includes accomplished flank Pablo Matera. 

"We're concentrating on staying in the game for the first 60 (minutes)," he said. 

"Obviously, it's a big thing for them. You think you're in the game for the 50th, 55th minute and then you're gone. They rip you apart."


New Zealand

15 Ben Smith; 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Waisake Naholo; 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 TJ Perenara; 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Shannon Frizell; 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick; 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe

Subtitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown


15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti,  3 Chaparro Tetaz, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Garcia Botta 

Substitutes: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Gaston Cortez, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Bautista Ezcurra, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia

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