'Rusty' All Blacks ready for Los Pumas challenge
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: Despite being without eight frontline players, New Zealand is unperturbed by the challenge of facing a much-improved Argentinean team in Buenos Aires.
Los Pumas host the All Blacks at Jose Amalfitani Stadium, in Buenos Aires, in the opening round of the abridged version of the Rugby Championship – the result of the World Cup tournament starting in September.
Regular skipper Kieran Read and his usual deputy Sam Whitelock are among eight Crusaders who are being excused this trip, to rest up and step straight in for the test against the Springboks in Wellington just a week later.
The others are Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Matt Todd, Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen admitted it is a challenge to face Argentina with so many players missing, in the first match of the season.
“We’re always a bit rusty in the first two or three games of the season, and we haven’t had the June window,” Hansen said in an interview on the All Blacks’ website.
“But I’m excited about what we’re doing.
“We’re excited about the people we’ve got doing it and the team.
Regardless of who we select in Argentina, it is going to be pretty different, because we don’t don’t have many Crusaders.
“The three guys who are going, two of them have never played and one of them has only played one game.”
He said he trusts the players that will feature in Buenos Aires.
“It’s giving people an opportunity to express themselves on the park but also off it,” Hansen said.
“We’re finding there are a lot of guys talking a bit more than they normally because they have to because the guys who would normally talk aren’t here,” he added.
All Black squad in Argentina:
Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Cane (captain), Vaea Fifita, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea.
Backs: Thomas Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Josh Ioane, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Braydon Ennor, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith (vice-captain).
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