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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Reshuffled All-Blacks still strong enough to punish Pumas

Argentina's defensive weaknesses could be exploited

Sam Whitelock drinks from the Bledisloe Cup
1 of 1

Rugby Championship round three
Sky Sports Action, 8.35am Saturday

New Zealand play their first Test at picturesque Trafalgar Park in Nelson and have revamped their team for the Rugby Championship visit of Argentina.

However, it should be more of the same in terms of the All Blacks scoring power and they can give up a handicap of 26 points.

The Kiwis have begun the annual southern hemisphere competition with back-to-back 38-13 and 40-12 hammerings of Australia and a crisp, clear evening is forecast, which should suit the squad selected by Steve Hanson.

Fabulous fly-half Beauden Barrett is rested completely after his four-try heroics in Auckland two weeks ago, as are scrum-half Aaron Smith and flankers Sam Cane and Liam Squire, while supreme second-rower Sam Whitelock is among the replacements and there is a back-three reshuffle. Loosehead prop Joe Moody is sidelined with a fractured arm.

However, it would be wrong to think this is a second-string outfit. Hansen will want a decent performance.

New number nine TJ Perenara and openside Ardie Savea are established finishers and Nehe Milner-Skudder's would have more caps if not for injuries.

Debutant fly-half Richie Mo'unga and lock Scott Barrett have been cogs in back-to-back Super Rugby titles for the Crusaders while loosehead Karl Tu’inukuafe and blindside Shannon Frizzell deserve their starts.

The All Blacks bench is brimming with gamebreakers. Hooker Nathan Harris roams the pitch like a back-rower and outside backs Damien McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown cut the Wallabies' defence to shreds in their Sydney and Eden Park cameos.             

The Pumas will be heartened by their home win over South Africa last time out and should be a presence at the set-piece and maul.

But new coach Mario Ledesma is unlikely to have had enough time to overhaul their failing defensive structures. Argentina conceded three tries to the Springboks in Mendoza and six touchdowns in Durban.

The Pumas have stayed within 27 points in four of their last five meetings in New Zealand but it would be no surprise if the final scoreline is similar to the 57-22 home win in Hamilton two years ago.

New Zealand -26
2pts 10-11 BoyleSports, Coral, Ladbrokes

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The Kiwis have begun the annual southern hemisphere competition with back-to-back 38-13 and 40-12 hammerings of Australia
E.W. Terms
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