The last time All Blacks coach Steve Hansen left out his two first-choice locks, his side lost to Ireland in Chicago.
The All Black team named to face the Pumas in Buenos Aires is missing Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock and is a mix of experimentation and get-out-of-jail experience.
Hansen has selected a pacy and powerful backline, notable for the return of Fijian flyer Waisake Naholo, who will earn his 14th cap. Interestingly, Waisake’s younger brother, 18-year-old Kini has also recently earned a national call-up, being selected for the New Zealand Schools team.
Sonny Bill Williams has been given another chance in midfield despite the drumbeat growing louder for Ngani Laumape’s recall. Laumape will enter from the bench alongside debutant utility David Havili. The 22-year-old had an outstanding season with the Championship-winning Crusaders, taking his opportunity after an injury to Israel Dagg, and holding his place throughout the season.
Havili has good pace and power, a subtle, elusive sidestep and an ability to put himself in try-scoring positions. He is a solid defender and his kicking is probably the area of his game which could be elevated.
In the forwards, one-man wrecking ball Vaea Fifita returns in the back row, as does Crusader Matt Todd who has not featured in the team since the northern tour last year. Scott Barrett, who impressed so much off the bench against the Springboks in the back row, gets his chance in his preferred role as lock, alongside yet another Crusader (making 8 in the squad), Luke Romano.
Hansen has retained key players Dane Coles at hooker, captain Kieran Read at No. 8 and Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett in the halves. The team certainly seems to have enough high class ‘rocks’ to allow the unpolished diamonds in the side to express themselves.
All Blacks team:
Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, Vaea Fifita, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Kane Hames
Reserves: Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Wyatt Crockett, Codie Taylor, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Ngani Laumape, David Havili
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena