All Blacks Team Named For Argentina Test

New Zealand coach Steven Hansen has named his All Blacks match day squad to take on Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday in La Plata.  The Test against Los Pumas is at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata and kick off is at 22:10 GMT.  The forward pack features the return from injury of lock Samuel Whitelock and blindside flanker Jerome Kaino.

With Dane Coles returning to New Zealand to be with his partner for the birth of their baby, Keven Mealamu starts at hooker, with Nathan Harris set to make a possible Test debut from the bench.  In the backs, Malakai Fekitoa gets his third start in the All Blacks coming in for the injured Ma’a Nonu, and Beauden Barrett gets his second start in the number 10 jersey, after starting the Test against Argentina in Napier three weeks ago.

Coach Hansen said, “After a good week of preparation, we are really looking forward to, and excited by, the challenge that playing Argentina in Argentina brings.  There is an expectation that we will have a quality performance full of excitement, energy, physicality and accuracy.  To beat the Argentineans will require that of us, as they have been playing very well and have improved a lot since last year.  With this being only their second home game in the Championship, there will be huge expectation on them to win.”  Hansen said he was looking forward to seeing Malakai Fekitoa playing at 12, “Though it’s disappointing having Ma’a injured, it is a great opportunity for the young man and one I’m sure he will take.”  Hansen added he was also looking forward to seeing Nathan Harris make his Test debut off the bench, “Nathan has been developing very well.  It’s well known that we don’t have a lot of depth in this position, but we feel that Nathan is ready and capable of doing a very good job.”

Kiwi captain Richie McCaw will this weekend equal New Zealand great Colin Meads’ record of 133 games for the national team.  Meads played 55 tests and 78 other matches for the New Zealanders from 1957 – 1971.  McCaw has played 132 Tests and a sole non-Test appearance against the Barbarians in 2009 since making his debut in 2001.  The All Blacks and Los Pumas have played each other 19 times since 1976, with 18 wins to New Zealand and one draw in 1985.

The New Zealanders beat the South Americans 28-9 in their first Rugby Championship clash in Napier three weeks ago.

The team is (with Test caps in brackets):

Starting XV:

1. Wyatt Crockett (31)
2. Keven Mealamu (117)
3. Owen Franks (61)
4. Brodie Retallick (31)
5. Samuel Whitelock (57)
6. Jerome Kaino (52)
7. Richie McCaw (c) (131)
8. Kieran Read (66)
9. Aaron Smith (33)
10. Beauden Barrett 
11. Julian Savea (26)
12. Malakai Fekitoa (4)
13. Conrad Smith (80)
14. Ben Smith (33)
15. Israel Dagg (41)

Reserves:

16. Nathan Harris *
17. Joe Moody (3)
18. Ben Franks (35)
19. Jeremy Thrush (7)
20. Sam Cane (18)
21. TJ Perenara (7)
22. Colin Slade (12)
23. Cory Jane (51)