All Blacks v Argentina

Two different authors today!
by Salacious Crumb
This week’s test promises to raise more questions about the current state of both sides than any answers their previous two matches may have provided.
Argentina will be buoyed, but greatly disappointed by the narrow defeats to a strong South African side while the All Blacks have yet again been forced to make changes to key positions.
Undoubtedly it will be the forwards contest that will be the most fascinating with the visitors boasting a typically impressive pack in terms of size and power.
Argentina, through injury of their own, have been forced to make changes to their loose forward trio with the outstanding Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe forced to switch to the blindside to accommodate the incoming No.8, Leonardo Senatore replacing Pablo Matera.
Whether this give Los Pumas the loose forward balance to attack the All Black halves is questionable but Lobbe in particular has the potential to threaten, through his physicality at the breakdown and ball in hand.
The biggest question mark of all will be on the performance of Beauden Barrett who starts in the number 10 jersey for the first time.
An instinctive, skilled player with outstanding acceleration, he may find the time and space required to show his wares somewhat diminished if his forwards fail to deliver a solid platform to work off.
If given the opportunity to display his game however, the visitors may see a lot of the number 10 on a black jersey.

The return of Ma’a Nonu will also be of interest given the performance of Ryan Crotty against the Wallabies at Eden Park.
The distribution of Crotty was simply superb and a key component in the All Blacks backline making such massive gains against the Wallabies with ball in hand. Nonu will have to show he is capable of that and more with that sort of squad pressure, especially with the imminent return of the other sublime distributor, Sonny Bill Williams.
Israel Dagg gets another chance to show his return to form is well underway while the best player of the season to date, Ben Smith is kept on in the wingers slot vacated by an injured Cory Jane.
Of the game itself, expect it to be a tight one; particularly early. Argentina won’t want the All Blacks imposing their pattern of play although they have shown their own counter attack is as potent as any. Ball security for both sides will be the order of the day.
The biggest impediment to an Argentinian moment of history is surely their self belief. More than once have they failed to put away top tier test nations when victory was there for the taking. They simply must believe they are good enough.
The All Blacks, as they are want, will just seek a performance better than the last.
If they do, then the visitors night could be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

by Bart67
As the All Blacks head into their third game of The Rugby Championship, it is strange to think that the forward pack is facing its hardest outing against the team considered by many to be the minnows of the competition. After a very strong performance against South Africa last week, the strength of the Puma’s at the breakdown and in the tight will be a stern test of the All Blacks determination.Argentina will bring a great deal of confidence in to this game following the narrow loss to the Springboks, but in Nicols Sanchez, Los Pumas have a world class number 10, which may work against them given the All Blacks propensity to use the quick counter attack, and a back three of Dagg, Savea and Ben Smith selected to do exactly that may give Sanchez pause. You might expect to see a little more breakdown ball as a result.

The forward dominance of Argentina is well known, and it is no coincidence that the starting forward pack is unchanged from the team that performed so magnificently against Australia two weeks ago. Coach Hansen is no fool.

Beauden Barrett in his first outing in the 10 jersey is bound to be a talking point, and with Colin Slade on the bench, it is a real expression of faith in the Taranaki and Hurricanes pivot that Aaron Cruden has been given the week off. A backline with Barrett, Nonu, Smith and Savea in Napier will warm the hearts of the Hurricanes faithful, especially with Izzy Dagg there to make up the numbers.

Argentina will not die wondering though, this could be an absolute belter. A moderate 13 degree evening and light drizzle may make for a greasy ball, I would imagine that the team with the best ball handling skills in the wet will dominate, and that is the All Blacks, but it may not be the one sided event many are picking, especially if Los Puma’s keep it tight up front.

No-one is more aware of that than the 23 men in black.


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