Los Pumas switch it up for All Blacks Test
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Argentina coach Michael Cheika on Thursday laughed off suggestions his in-form team are favourites to notch another win over New Zealand in this weekend’s Rugby Championship Test at Hamilton.
The Pumas sit atop the standings at the midway point following Saturday’s 25-18 upset of the struggling All Blacks in Christchurch.
That result followed their record 48-17 thrashing of Australia in San Juan and left them eyeing three-successive Rugby Championship wins for the first time.
But Cheika said he could not accept any suggestion the visitors would be favourites this Saturday against a New Zealand side who have slumped to six losses in their last eight Tests.
“Mate, we’re in New Zealand, playing against New Zealand,” he told journalists.
“I know that you guys like to manoeuvre the story around, but we’re about as underdog as you get. You win once, and then no one expects you to win again.
“There’s absolutely no benefit for any of us to think about anything like that.”
However, when reminded that Ireland won successive games in New Zealand five weeks ago to clinch a maiden series win, Cheika acknowledged that feat “gives us some hope”.
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Cheika unveiled a team featuring four changes, including a demotion to the replacements bench for flank Juan Martin Gonzalez, who was Argentina’s lone try-scorer in Christchurch.
His place goes to Santiago Grondona, while another change to the forward pack has lock Guido Petti replacing Matias Alemmano.
Wing Santiago Cordero and scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli have been recalled for Lucio Cinti and Gonzalo Bertranou, giving Cheika’s backline a more experienced look.
Emiliano Boffelli is on the right wing, leaving him as the only Pumas player to have started all seven of their Tests this year.
There is a bench place for Castres flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta, who hasn’t played since injuring his leg early in the club’s Top-14 final loss to Montpellier in June.
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia; 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Santiago Cordero; 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli; 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Santiago Grondona; 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti; 3 Joel Sclavi, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Lucio Cinti.
Date: Saturday, September 3
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.05 (04:05 ART, 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia) & Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Brian McNeice (Ireland)