The All Blacks take on the Pumas this weekend without regulars Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retalick, Ryan Crotty and Sam Cane. They will have a rest to freshen up for the following weeks match against the Springboks.
This was a pre-planned move to deal with large travel demands in October and November. This will allow players to be fresh for end of year tour. Here is a potential XV that will face the Pumas:
- Kane Hames
- Codie Taylor
Starting two inexperienced props in Argentina will test Hames and Tu’ungafasi. Hames will get another chance to cement the loosehead prop position after starting in the 57-0 demolition of the Springboks. Tu’ungafasi will be confident after playing his best game in a black jersey and scoring a try at Albany.
Taylor who started all three tests against the Lions will want to start to keep his great progress up this year. Regular hooker Dane Coles will travel to Argentina but maybe therein an off-field leadership role for this test.
4. Luke Romano
5. Scott Barrett
Not having the established duo of Retalick and Whitelock is a potential risk as we saw in Chicago last year. The All Black’s lineout did not function as well and their physical presence was missed. It will be hard to see the same issues occur in Buenos Aires with Barrett and Romano both specialist lock forwards.
The Crusaders combination have a good opportunity to show that New Zealand’s second row depth is in good hands.
6. Jerome Kaino
7. Matt Todd
8. Kieran Read
81 test cap veteran Jerome Kaino has some ground to make up if he wants to reclaim the number six jersey on a regular basis. Kaino left the squad to deal with personal issues before the opening match of The Rugby Championship. He has witnessed Liam Squire and Vaea Fifita have strong Test matches in his absence. Matt Todd considered unlucky by many not to be an All Black already in 2017 will be eager to take his opportunities if he starts. Todd is effective at the breakdown and may start with Ardie Savea making his usual impact off the bench.
Captain Kieran Read should start due to being the tour leader. His workload will be managed in this game with Savea or Kaino possibly finishing the game in the number eight position.
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow
10. Damian McKenzie
This match is an opportunity to start the Chiefs duo as the inside back duo. Kerr-Barlow has had minimal game time during the international season. He will be eager to have a rare start in the nine jersey. McKenzie has started the last four test matches at fullback but the coaching staff may experiment with him at fly-half.
With Lima Sopoaga staying at home due to becoming a father and Beauden Barrett, being a late replacement to travel this is a great opportunity for McKenzie to be the backline general and show he is a potential fly-half for the All Blacks.
12. Ngani Laumape
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
The young combination that started against the Lions in the third test may combine again. This is an exciting combination with Laumape’s powerful bursts through the midfield. Lienert-Brown adds a strong offloading game and is an accurate defender. Sonny Bill Williams is on tour and will be interesting to see if he is chosen to give a young backline some experience.
11. Rieko Ioane
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder
15. David Havili
Both wingers had exceptional games against South Africa combining for three tries. Ioane is full of confidence and will be a handful for the Pumas on Sunday if selected. Milner-Skudder showed glimpses of why he was a World Cup winner in 2015. The more rugby he plays the more dazzling form we will see. Havili will hopefully get an opportunity to make his debut. The Crusaders fullback is safe under the high ball and is a strong second playmaking option.
This potential line has a combined 335 caps with Kaino and Read having 185 of those between them. The All Blacks need to take some selection risks to allow fringe players more game time and manage the large workloads of some key players. It will be interesting to see what the starting 15 looks like when named later in the week.