All Black Selectors Make Subtle Changes for ARGvNZL

New Zealand v Argentina - The Rugby Championship

In similar decisions from the last series of matches, the All Black Selectors make subtle changes for this Round Five clash between Argentina and New Zealand (ARGvNZL).

It is an important game for both sides, and using the week off to recharge their batteries, a traveling All Blacks side have gone fore a solid base, with a blend a experience and men from the benches.

That blending is what Steve Hansen has had to perfect, after many changes to the starting sides in 2017. Using his wider group, Hansen seems determined to have a healthy group too. Even at the expense of leaving nearly half a dozen first-choice players at home–just to be sure he has both a strong team, and a well rested squad.

All Black Selectors Make Subtle Changes for ARGvNZL

ARGvNZL – Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires. Saturday September 30

Traveling to Argentina with so much experience left behind, will be a concern. But in examining the group selected, many of the choices are just as capable–but with fewer test caps and composure [possibly].

That element is crucial for captain Kieran Read. He will need deputies who can be cool under pressure. Yet, without Ryan Crotty, the midfield is an area that will require a man to stand tall. Anton Lienert-Brown has been included, in the place of the more exciting Ngani Laumape. This is a direct call to experience over exuberance. And it is the right one.

Choosing Key Men to Rely On

A similar call has been made in locking area. Without the most consummate pairing in World Rugby; Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, the need to have experience is an indispensable quality. To fill one of those spaces, is Luke Romano. A cool head, as he has shown for the Crusaders time, and time again.

Luke Romano and Scott Barrett of the Crusaders
on the charge during the round two Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium on February 21, 2015 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

Now Romano and his colleague Scott Barrett are called in the hold the All Blacks scrum in place. Up against the powerful Argentinean pack, it will be here that the match is won or lost. In the tight, but also in setpiece where Romano will call the lineouts, and Barrett will act as a fourth loose forward option.

In the front row, Nepo Laulala and Kane Hames repeat their pairing from the last test. So between them, Dane Coles will be the fulcrum that ties that trio, and his open role will also bring plenty to the outside edges on attack. If he and Read can use the tram-lines positively, look for some magic to occur.

Steve Hansen Happy with Squad for ARGvNZL

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “We’ve selected what we believe is a quality team and have high expectations.

“Now they’ll go out and put in a strong performance this weekend.”

“The team has had a great week here in Buenos Aires.  As always, our training throughout the week has been of paramount importance.  Whilst this is a team requirement, it is also an individual necessity. Our training and preparation has to be bone-deep, and when this is achieved, we always give ourselves the opportunity to play well on Saturday.”

However positive that the preparation has been, by the start of the match, the home side will be fully motivated. With no real title aspirations in The Rugby Championship, pride is on the line. The prized scalp of the All Blacks can be theirs, if Los Pumas play a ‘complete game’.

Note: All Blacks have played Argentina 25 times with 24 wins to the All Blacks and one draw.

Debut for David Havili off the Bench

The versatile David Havili has been making waves in the rugby world since making his debut for Tasman as a 19 year old, in 2014. He made his Investec Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders the following year and showed his versatility by playing both wing, 12 and fullback.

Havili has cemented his place at fullback in 2017, and stamped his authority on the position: he was second in Super Rugby statistics; for defenders beaten and scored eight tries.

Playing with assured maturity, the All Blacks selectors liked what they saw and called Havili into The Rugby Championship squad as a replacement, for the injured Jordie Barrett.

In essence, he has been used from the bench in respect to the opposition, and that Beauden Barrett will at some stage be substituted. Not done often, but with the All Black selectors implying they see starting fullback Damian McKenzie as a future first-five. Then introducing Havili now, is a look towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

While still two years away, that decision has been enforced by the loss of Israel Dagg to a lingering knee issue. He does not require surgery, but requires time off. Havili is the perfect fit, and can play on the wing too.

Vaea Fifita Returns to the Starting Lineup

Still in his formative year as an All Black, Vaea Fifita halts the return of Jerome Kaino, to secure the blindside flanker position. That alone is a credit to his bright future, and he will need to show the confidence that the Steve Hansen has in him. Hansen told Newshub;

“He’s in the infancy of what should be a very good career. And with the talent that he’s got, he’s got the work ethic to back that up.”

That quality is personified by his flanking partner Matt Todd. Recalled to the group, for the rested Sam Cane. Todd holds out Ardie Savea, but that is simply recognition of both men’s nature. The Crusader is the soldier on the ground seeking out the ball with precision, whereas Savea is a ‘human Hurricane’ that can make punishing breaks when the opposition are weakest. Todd to start, with the Savea to have possibly 30 minutes to blow away Los Pumas.

The other change is on the right wing, with Waisake Naholo asking for time in the black jersey. Troubled by concussion symptoms, he is a lethal option. Given time to prepare, All Black fans will be excited by his combination with Rieko Ioane and McKenzie. One big man, who can be released at set piece, Naholo has to also provide defense and be secure under the high ball. The selectors are confident he can do that, and more.

If all those elements come together, after the All Black selectors make subtle changes for ARGvNZL, then The 2017 Rugby Championship title is one step closer for the current World Champions.


“Main photo credit”