Brodie Retallick will be a key man for the All Blacks against Argentina in what could be wet conditions at McLean Park. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
A dry night would suit the world champions' dangerous backs but, as we saw at Loftus three weeks ago, rain is a great leveller. With a 70% chance of rain in Napier on Saturday, the All Blacks may have to rely on their pack to put the Pumas away.
That won't worry coach Steve Hansen. After a disappointing performance in Sydney, his forwards smashed the Wallabies in Auckland, dominating the set pieces and winning the collisions. It was an emphatic statement from the big men ahead of their clashes with the Pumas and Boks, both of whom regard their forwards as their major strength.
The stats tell the story of Retallick's all-round impact in that Eden Park match – he made 65m from nine carries, completed nine tackles without missing one, won two lineouts and forced a turnover.
The 23-year-old lock, who stands 2.04m tall and weighs 121kg, loves the physical aspect of the game and his battle with Tomas Lavanini will be fascinating to watch. The Pumas lock, who is just 21 years old, is the same height as Retallick but weighs 8kg more. Interestingly, Lavanini was at the Chiefs academy last year where he caught Retallick's eye.
Retallick has been an automatic selection for the All Blacks this year, missing just 17 minutes out of a possible 400, and is regarded by many as the best No 4 in the world. Strong performances against the Pumas and Boks over the next month would only enhance his reputation.
As you would expect, the All Blacks pack is unchanged for this Test. Among the backs, Aaron Cruden's chest injury sees Beauden Barrett make only his third Test start, and first at No 10, while a fit-again Ma'a Nonu replaces the injured Ryan Crotty at inside centre. Israel Dagg, who was dropped for the two Bledisloe Cup matches, will start at fullback, with Ben Smith shifting to the right wing in place of Cory Jane.
Argentina have made five changes, including three positional, to the team that pushed the Springboks so close in Salta. Leonardo Senatore comes in at No 8, which sees Juan Manuel Leguizamón shiting to No 7 flank and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe to No 6. In the backs, Horacio Agulla replaces Manuel Montero on the right wing, with Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino shifting to the left.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: All Blacks 17, Argentina 0, Draw 1
In New Zealand: All Blacks 10, Argentina 0
RETALLICK'S STATS THAT MATTER
2 – The number of turnovers he's won in this year's Rugby Championship (Rank 1)
25 – The number of tackles he's made (Rank 6)
4 – The number of lineouts he's won on his own throw (Rank 9)
14 – The number of carries he's made (Rank 10)
87 – The number of metres he's run (Rank 20)
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Joe Moody, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Matias Cortese, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Juan Imhoff.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images