MATCH DETAILS: All Blacks v Argentina, Saturday 3 September, 7.05pm NZT, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton. (TICKETS)
Won: All Blacks 31, Argentina 2, Drawn 1
Last time: All Blacks 18, Argentina 25 (27 August 2022, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch)
Referee: Nic Berry
TITLE RACE WIDE OPEN
With the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship at the halfway point, the competition has never been more open or unpredictable. All four teams are still in the running for the title with Argentina and Australia sitting on top with nine points. The All Blacks are in third place on five points with South Africa at the bottom on four points. Such is the nature of the tournament this year, the table could completely flip this weekend if the All Blacks and South Africa both secured victories. All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett said: "It's a great competition this year, anyone can win on their day, and it's going to be an interesting few weeks to finish."
CHANGES ON THE BENCH
All Blacks selectors Ian Foster, Joe Schmidt and Jason Ryan have opted for the same starting fifteen as the two previous Tests against South Africa and Argentina – the first time since 1997 that the All Blacks have retained the same starting fifteen for three consecutive Test matches. There is a new look bench with first five-eighths Beauden Barrett and lock Brodie Retallick returning from injury. The pair add 201 Test caps of experience between them, while Barrett is the most capped All Black against Argentina with 16 appearances. Additional changes have been made to the reserves where hooker Dane Coles and loose forward Dalton Papali’i will look to make an impact later in the game.
DEVELOPING FRONT ROW
After missing selection for the Steinlager Series, young props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax have impressed in the Rugby Championship and are looking forward to their third-straight start together. De Groot said he felt the pair had something to prove coming into the side and were building their combination every day. “We know that we have to be on because there is a lot of competition at the moment. George (Bower) is playing well, Rossy (Aidan Ross) has come in and is training well every week, and then you’ve got the other boys on the tighthead side as well, Fletcher has come in and going unreal, you’ve got a bit of experience in Angus, so me and Loey (Tyrel) just got to keep it on.”
FINAL QUARTER FOCUS
All Blacks coach Ian Foster said lifting the side’s performance in the final quarter would be a focus in Hamilton. "Great All Black teams have always been good in that last 20 minutes at backing themselves and doing the right thing. We got it right in South Africa, but wrong in Christchurch." Foster said. “It is something we are working hard on to grow the confidence in the last part of the game to make sure we embrace those moments but also stay clear in our decision-making.”
Argentina have the best success rate on lineout throws of any team in the Rugby Championship in 2022 (90% - 37/41). However, no team has stolen more opposition lineouts in the competition this year than the All Blacks with six.
All Blacks (Test caps in brackets):
1. Ethan de Groot (7) 2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (14) 3. Tyrel Lomax (17) 4. Sam Whitelock (137) 5. Scott Barrett (53) 6. Shannon Frizell (20) 7. Sam Cane © (83) 8. Ardie Savea (65) 9. Aaron Smith (108) 10. Richie Mo’unga (38) 11. Caleb Clarke (8) 12. David Havili (19) 13. Rieko Ioane (53) 14. Will Jordan (18) 15. Jordie Barrett (42)
Reserves: 16. Dane Coles (82) 17. George Bower (17) 18. Fletcher Newell (2) 9. Brodie Retallick (95) 20. Dalton Papali’i (15) 21. Finlay Christie (9) 22. Beauden Barrett (106) 23. Quinn Tupaea (12)
1: Thomas Gallo 2: Julian Montoya (c) 3: Joel Sclavi 4: Guido Petti 5: Tomas Lavanini 6: Santiago Grondona 7: Marcos Kremer 8: Pablo Matera 9: Tomas Cubelli 10: Santiago Carreras 11: Santiago Cordero 12: Matias Orlando 13: Matias Moroni 14: Emiliano Boffelli 15: Juan Cruz Mallia
Reserves: 16: Santiago Socino, 17: Mayco Vivas, 18: Eduardo Bello, 19: Matias Alemanno, 20: Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21: Gonzalo Bertranou, 22: Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23: Lucio Cinto.