Match details: All Blacks v Argentina, Saturday 14 November, 7.10pm NZT, Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Won: All Blacks 28, Drawn 1
Last time: All Blacks 20, Argentina 16 (20 July 2019)
Without the benefits of Super Rugby play after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and with several players and coaches stricken by the virus, Argentina have to cope with an All Blacks side who have had the benefit of a tough domestic Super Rugby competition and four rugged Tests for the Bledisloe Cup against Australia.
World Cup cycle
Like any side, Argentina has undergone changes since the Rugby World Cup last year. One player, second five-eighths Santiago Chocobares will make his debut in the starting side with substitutes, flanker Santiago Grondona and centre Lucio Cinti, also making their debuts. Tighthead prop Francisco Gomez Kodela first played for the side in 2008 but has only played 11 Tests since, although he has made 180 appearances across four different French clubs. Coach Mario Ledesma said Kodela's inclusion was because of the experience he had playing recently. Midfield was a concern for the side. Matias Orlando will be playing his first game for some time after injury while Jeronimo de la Fuente and Matias Moroni were not considered as a result of injuries. However, Ledesma has been impressed with Chocobares. "It is a good opportunity to see how he reacts. We were surprised with his physical preparation when we returned to training. He is very consistent in everything and has shown good energy and attitude at training."
Returning to the combination of Jack Goodhue at second five-eighths and Anton Lienert-Brown at centre will see the All Blacks looking to probe a potentially worrying area for Argentina. Down on experience in that midfield channel, the Argentinians are certain to face All Black probes. While the All Blacks combination has been steady defensively when fielded, the chance to escape the cloying defensive approach Australia employed could be a welcome departure. With the addition of strong running in support from wings Caleb Clarke and Jordie Barrett, and also from the New Zealand loose trio, there should be some explosive opportunities.
The match play factor
It has been 13 months since Argentina played a Test, and that was at the Rugby World Cup when they beat the United States 47-17. Their preparation in Australia has seen them beat Australia A in two games – 19-15 and 57-24. That hasn't been lost on Ledesma. "New Zealand and Australia have had friction and intensity, we have already seen that in Super Rugby and the first games of the Tri Nations. We will need to take every opportunity we can to score points. We would have preferred to play more games during our preparation but that's what we had to do and we will not make excuses. We are capable of running ball back at opponents, it is a strength of this team and of Argentine rugby generally. The three players at the back are specialists in aerial play," he said.
New Zealand and Argentina have only met on neutral ground once before, at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England when the All Blacks won 26-16. The Test is the 30th between the sides with the All Blacks unbeaten with 28 wins and a draw. Argentina first five-eighths Nicolas Sanchez has scored 50 points in his last five Tests against the All Blacks and lock Guido Petti won more lineouts than any other player in last year's Investec Rugby Championship when making 13 takes, including two steals. All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor leads the list of players to have yet to miss a tackle in the Tri Nations. He has made 16 tackles.
The teams are:
All Blacks: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Dane Coles, 3.Tyrel Lomax, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.Shannon Frizell, 7.Sam Cane (captain), 8.Ardie Savea, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.Caleb Clarke, 12.Jack Goodhue, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Jordie Barrett, 15.Beauden Barrett.
Substitutes: 16.Codie Taylor, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Nepo Laulala, 19.Tupou Vaa'i, 20.Hoskins Sotutu, 21.Brad Weber, 22.Rieko Ioane, 23.Damian McKenzie.
Argentina: 1.Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2.Julián Montoya, 3.Francisco Gómez Kodela, 4.Guido Petti, 5.Matías Alemanno, 6.Pablo Matera (captain), 7.Marcos Kremer, 8.Rodrigo Bruni; 9.Tomás Cubelli, 10.Nicolás Sánchez, 11.Juan Imhoff, 12.Santiago Chocobares, 13.Matías Orlando, 14.Bautista Delguy, 15.Santiago Carreras.
Substitutes: 16.Facundo Bosch, 17.Mayco Vivas, 18.Santiago Medrano, 19.Santiago Grondona, 20.Tomás Lezana, 21.Gonzalo Bertranou, 22.Lucio Cinti, 23.Santiago Cordero.