Argentina beef up backline for All Blacks Test
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Argentina coach Michael Cheika on Thursday unveiled a bulked-up backline as he made three starting changes to his team to face New Zealand in their Rugby Championship Test in Christchurch on Saturday.
Cheika also overhauled his replacements bench as he looks to retain the winning formula following his side’s 48-17 demolition of Australia at San Juan 12 days ago.
All three starting changes were enforced, with Cheika opting not to bring a handful of experienced players to New Zealand for the two-Test assignment.
Seasoned backs Juan Imhoff and Jeronimo de la Fuente are both missing from the side who beat the Wallabies, along with starting prop Francisco Gomez Kodela.
The inexperienced Lucio Cinti comes onto the left wing for Imhoff while 60-Test outside back Matias Moroni is restored in place of the injured De la Fuente, reuniting with long-time midfield colleague Matias Orlando.
Cinti and Moroni are both sizeable backs, something Cheika said would be important to counter the All Blacks midfield.
“New Zealand have a big backline, so we’ve got some big players there to maybe counter that,” he told journalists Thursday.
“This team is a combination of what we saw from the last game and the chance to see a few different things.
“It’s good competition at the moment, there’s lots of difficult [selection] duels and there will be a lot of new energy from the finishing team.”
Up front, Joel Sclavi starts at tighthead prop while Cheika has changed all five forwards on his bench.
Veteran front-row forwards Augustin Creevy and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro were among the replacements against Australia but have not been picked to tour, instead returning to their clubs in Europe.
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez Samso, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Joel Sclavi, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Santiago Grondona, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Santiago Cordero.
Date: Saturday, August 27
Venue: Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:45 (04:45 ART; 07.45 GMT)
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Brian McNeice (Ireland)