Date: 9th October 2011
Time: 20.30 NZT/08.30am BST
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Official: Nigel Owens (WAL)
Whilst the rest of the rugby world bewailed the loss of Dan Carter and potentially Richie McCaw, the All Blacks took a moment, then pulled their socks up and focused on winning their last pool game against Canada.
Richie McCaw is now back in the squad, playing through a “niggling foot injury that could require surgery after the RWC” and he takes the captaincy.
Elsewhere in the team, Zac Guilford, who scored 4 tries in last week’s game, has torn his hamstring, and has been ruled out, meaning that Sonny Bill Williams has moved out to play on the wing. Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui are also out, thanks to a bruised thigh and hamstring respectively. Mils Muliaina is about to reach is 100th cap, and will be in place at full back.
Encounters with New Zealand will soon become a regular occurrence for the Pumas, as from next year they will be taking part in the expanded Tri-Nations tournament. The game against Georgia was tougher than it perhaps needed to be for Argentina, they took their time to settle, allowing the Georgians to dominate the opening moments.
Most people are not expecting Argentina to progress any further than this in the competition, however belief in the camp is high, and all of the players are looking forward to playing the world number 1’s.
What to Expect:
In his post match interview at the Georgia game, Argentinian captain Felipe Contepomi said that they had been studying the All Black’s form, looking for weaknesses to exploit. Obviously he did not say whether they had found any or not! New Zealand are expecting a physical battle in this game. Argentina will no doubt put in a valiant effort, but the All Blacks will dominate from the word go. Unless of course, the choke, that most thought would come against France, decides to make an appearance.
All Eyes On: Colin Slade & Horacio Agulla
Colin Slade has some rather large boots to fill as he comes in at fly-half. With only 10 caps to his name, he will be responsible for the control and flow of the All Blacks game. It is an awful lot of pressure to handle. But with a team of experienced players around him, who all know their job, he should do well. Slade might find himself a target for the Argentinians, looking to score points from his inexperience, but his half back cohort Piri Weepu will keep him in check.
Horacio Agulla has said this week that if Argentina maintains their calm and focus for the full 80 minutes then they are in with a real chance of beating the All Blacks. Putting his faith in the forwards Agulla will be ready on the wing to take advantage of any opportunities that come his way. Like Colin Slade, Agulla will probably have already been marked by his opposition; meaning that he will find himself surrounded by black shirts whenever he gets a touch on the ball. It will be a real test of his skill to see how he handles this game.
Head to Head: Richie McCaw v Juan Manuel Leguizamón
Having already suffered the heartbreak of losing Dan Carter, the whole of New Zealand has been on tenterhooks over the fitness of their captain Richie McCaw. Losing one talisman is bad enough, but two? More importantly, against a physical Argentinian pack, the All Blacks will want him at his best on the floor. The man opposite him, Leguizamón, has developed into an excellent back-row forward for Argentina and Stade Français. Ferocious at the breakdown and in defence, and able to make a break in attack.
Last result: Buenos Aires, 2006. Argentina 19 – 25 New Zealand.
Weather: Fine and dry. 13° with easterly winds.
The statistics speak for themselves here, Argentina have not won any of the 13 encounters between these two teams. There has been a draw though. On current form I doubt that Argentina will cause what would be the upset of the tournament. New Zealand by 15.