Preview: All Blacks v Argentina

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DATE: Sunday October 9, 2011
KICK-OFF: 2030 NZDT (1830 AEDT)
VENUE: Eden Park, Auckland
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Played 13: New Zealand 12, Argentina 0, drawn 1
HEAD-TO-HEAD IN WORLD CUPS: Played 1: New Zealand 1, Argentina 0
LAST TIME: June 25, 2006 (Buenos Aires): Argentina 19-25 New Zealand

After his four-try spectacular at Wellington, Zac Guildford was ruled out of this match with a minor hamstring issue suffered at Tuesday training. Richie McCaw will play this match after missing the last, and the whole world knows about Daniel Carter. Israel Dagg (thigh) and Richard Kahui (hamstring) were also ruled out, so Mils Muliaina, who had a solid hit-out against Canada but might have been confined to a bench role, will become the second All Black to reach 100 tests when he starts. The forward pack probably did not present too many selection room problems, but juggling the backline would have occupied a little more time.

There were no surprise selections in the Argentina team, with all the big guns who were rested for Georgia back in the starting line-up and Rodrigo Roncero recovered from a thigh strain. The team differs in only one place from the side that played Scotland, with that one spot being at No 8 where the injured Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has necessarily been replaced.

New Zealand 2011 RWC:
Beat Tonga 41-10
Beat Japan 83-7
Beat France 37-17
Beat Canada 79-15
First in Pool A

Argentina 2011 RWC:
Lost to England 9-13
Beat Romania 43-8
Beat Scotland 13-12
Beat Georgia 25-7
Second in Pool B

New Zealand were untroubled winning the pool and maintained their record of having collected a bonus point in every pool game since they were introduced in 2003. If one was to be picky, the fact three opposing teams have scored tries through backline carelessness on the All Blacks’ part would be a worry but the New Zealand backs have been far more dangerous than their opposites. The forwards have dominated the opposition with the exception of the second half against Tonga, but did a job on France in what has been the biggest test to date.

Argentina had to work a lot harder in their pool matches, although all four could have been won. The England game was lost when halfway-decent goal-kicking would have put Argentina out of sight long before the hour mark, and Scotland were only overcome in the last few minutes thanks to the one moment of individual brilliance in the match. Argentina looked good against Romania, although careless finishing marred an otherwise exciting back display, and the Pumas worked hard for the first hour against Georgia before putting the game out of reach with a couple of tries.

There was so much talk about the now-absent Daniel Carter last week that people were in danger of missing a standout effort from one of the key men in the side, flanker Jerome Kaino. His play against Canada was extremely good, whether with ball in hand as he smashed through the defence again or on the tackle as he killed another movement. A quiet achiever who lets his rugby do the talking, Kaino is an automatic selection these days and part of an athletic and dynamic loose trio. Since Richie McCaw and Kieran Read suffered their respective injuries, he has stepped up and may well be the leader of the pack over the next few weeks – a sure sign of his quality.

While he is not one of the talked-about Pumas, flanker Julio Farias Cabello has a big job in front of him and needs to do it to a very high standard. His direct opposite is Kaino who, as noted above, is having a mighty tournament. So Cabello, who is a good physical match at 1.93m and 109kg, has to do the heavy work in close, carry the ball when needed in the heaviest traffic and tackle everything that moves. His value may be best measured by what you don’t see – if you don’t see the All Black loose trio, he’s doing a fine job and Argentina will be in the game. See too much of the All Black loosies, and it should be game over.

Since New Zealand seems to be talking about nothing but the Slade-for-Carter swap that was forced upon the All Blacks, Colin Slade’s own view is elegantly simple. "I'm going out there to be me, I'm not going out there to be DC. I'm going to play my game and lead the team the best way I know how," he said during the week. If he can do that, he should be fine – the guy is an All Black because he’s a high-quality player, something that seems to be lost in the hysteria on occasion.

Pumas skipper Felipe Contepomi wasn’t mucking about when he described the challenge facing his team on the weekend. "We have to try to do the perfect game and if we prepare our tactics well, then luck may go our way," he said. "We can make that luck for ourselves, but we are up against the best team in the world." You have to agree with him that Argentina needs to turn in its best game of the tournament to stay alive, and the idea that you make your own luck is something the side cannot afford to lose sight of at any stage.

New Zealand is heavily favoured to win this match, and it is hard to argue with that. The All Blacks, with or without Daniel Carter, have far more attacking punch and the worst the forwards will do is break even, which would be more than enough for New Zealand to create and finish a few chances. Argentina needs the biggest World Cup upset yet and won’t get it; New Zealand should be at least 20 points the better side.

New Zealand: 1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Keven Mealamu, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Sam Whitelock, 5. Brad Thorn, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw (capt), 8. Kieran Read, 9. Piri Weepu, 10. Colin Slade, 11. Sonny Bill Williams, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 13. Conrad Smith, 14. Cory Jane, 15. Mils Muliaina.
Reserves: 16. Andrew Hore, 17. Ben Franks, 18. Ali Williams, 19. Victor Vito, 20. Jimmy Cowan, 21. Aaron Cruden, 22. Isaia Toeava.

Argentina: 1. Rodrigo Roncero, 2. Mario Ledesma Arocena, 3. Juan Figallo, 4. Manuel Carizza, 5. Patricio Albacete, 6. Julio Farias Cabello, 7. Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 8. Leonardo Senatore, 9. Nicolas Vergallo, 10. Santiago Fernandez, 11. Horacio Agulla, 12. Felipe Contepomi (capt), 13. Marcelo Bosch, 14. Gonzalo Comacho, 15. Martin Rodriguez.
Reserves: 16. Agustin Creevy, 17. Martin Scelzo, 18. Marcos Ayerza, 19. Alejandro Campos, 20. Alfredo Lalanne, 21. Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 22. Juan Jose Imhoff.

REFEREE: Nigel Owens (Wales)