The All Blacks team to play Argentina in the Investec Rugby Championship match in Napier this weekend has been named.
The All Blacks will play Argentina for the first time this year at McLean Park on Saturday 6 September (kick-off: 7.35PM NZT live on SKY TV).
The team is (with Test caps in brackets):
1. Wyatt Crockett (29)
2. Dane Coles (20)
3. Owen Franks (59)
4. Brodie Retallick (29)
5. Samuel Whitelock (56)
6. Liam Messam (33)
7. Richie McCaw (c) (129)
8. Kieran Read (64)
9. Aaron Smith (31)
10. Beauden Barrett (21)
11. Julian Savea (24)
12. Ma’a Nonu (92)
13. Conrad Smith (78)
14. Ben Smith (31)
15. Israel Dagg (39)
16. Keven Mealamu (115)
17. Ben Franks (33)
18. Joe Moody (1)
19. Jeremy Thrush (5)
20. Sam Cane (16)
21. TJ Perenara (5)
22. Colin Slade (11)
23. Malakai Fekitoa (4)
There are three changes to the starting XV, with two of those changes as a result of injuries.
Beauden Barrett will make his first Test start in the number 10 jersey, replacing Aaron Cruden, who is still recovering from the chest muscle injury suffered in the Bledisloe Cup Test victory two weeks ago, with Colin Slade coming onto the bench. Meanwhile, Ma’a Nonu has recovered from his shoulder bruising and is back at 12, while Israel Dagg is in the 15 jersey, with Ben Smith moving to the right wing.
Speaking on the changes to the starting XV, All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Aaron could have played but the selectors weren’t prepared to take the risk of him re-injuring himself and being out for a long period.”
Regarding the selection of Dagg, Hansen added: “The selectors felt this was the right time to give Israel an opportunity. We also want to make it clear that his selection is not a reflection on Cory Jane’s play, as we have been very happy with his performances.”
There are also two changes to the bench – prop Joe Moody replaces Charlie Faumuina and lock Jeremy Thrush comes in for Steven Luatua. Hansen said one of the changes was based on form and the other was tactical.
“We wanted a specialist lock for this encounter so Jeremy is the obvious choice with Dominic Bird and Patrick Tuipulotu still not ready to play. In the second change, the selectors have been unhappy with Charlie’s form.”
Looking forward to this weekend, Hansen said: “There is a lot of respect for this Argentinean team. Their last two performances against South Africa have been right up there and shows that they are capable of beating top opposition.
“The other challenge this week is on ourselves to repeat and improve on the performance against Australia. That is about every individual – from the coaches to the players and management – being totally accountable for their roles within the team throughout the week and getting our preparation bone deep and genuine, both physically and mentally.
“I would also like to thank the people of the Hawke’s Bay for their support and help throughout the week. It’s been fantastic to be able to bring the team to a place we don’t normally come to and we look forward to their support on Saturday.”
All Blacks – The Highlights
• All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw will play his 130th Test match this weekend. Adding in his single non-Test for the All Blacks (against the Barbarians in 2009), McCaw is closing in on All Blacks great Colin Meads’ record of 133 All Blacks appearances (55 Tests, 78 matches).
• Meanwhile, McCaw’s fellow All Blacks Test centurion, Keven Mealamu has been on the winning side 98 times and is inching closer to becoming just the second player in history behind McCaw to record 100 Test wins.
• Prop Ben Franks is set to play his 200th first-class game from the bench on Saturday.
• Conrad Smith and good mate Ma’a Nonu will play their 53rd Test together, one short of the record for a midfield partnership. Smith currently has 70 Test wins from 78 Tests, the highest success rate by any international player who has played more than 50 Tests.
• Wyatt Crockett and Brodie Retallick will play their 30th Tests.
• The All Blacks and Argentina have played each other 22 times since 1976, with 21 wins to the All Blacks and one draw. The two hard-fought matches against Argentina in last year’s Investec Rugby Championship saw the All Blacks win 33-15 in La Plata and 28-13 in Hamilton.
• Since the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks have played 33 Tests, with 30 wins, two draws and one loss. If you are statistically inclined, that’s a 91 percent win record, six percent draws and three percent loss ratio.