Rugby Championship 2014: New Zealand v Argentina head to head ratings

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No.New ZealandRatingArgentinaRating
1.Wyatt Crockett – Quietly impressive in the two tests so far. Woodcock’s absence hasn’t been as keenly felt as many thought it might be.7Marcos Ayerza – Amongst the best in the world in his position. Powerful in the tight, hard-working and surprisingly mobile in the loose.8
2.Dane Coles – Explosive in the loose and lineout was much better last time around. If he can keep that up he’ll be a fixture for years to come.7.5Agustín Creevy – An incredible transformation from the penalty-machine that played for Worcester last season. Captaincy has galvanised his entire game.7.5
3.Owen Franks – Hasn’t really been tested at the scrum so far – that will change this weekend. Solid so far this championship.7Ramiro Herrera – Powerful scrummager who gave even the mighty Springboks headaches. Will hope to similarly tear into Crockett this weekend.7.5
4.Brodie Retallick – The epitome of the modern lock. Powerful in the loose but one of the highest work rates on any rugby pitch.9Mariano Galarza – Likes to carry the ball and has a handy habit of offloading, too. Mobility needs to be high, given the opposition.7
5.Sam Whitelock – More understated than his engine room partner, but every bit as important. Set piece maestro.8.5Tomas Lavanini – Has taken to test rugby well but this will be comfortably the biggest test of his credentials to date.6.5
6.Liam Messam – Mobile and abrasive, Messam made three turnovers in the last match – more than any of his colleagues.8Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe – The talisman of this side, even if he isn’t captain. Needs to be at his best.8
7.Richie McCaw – Roared back to his best at Eden Park and even bagged a brace. Will fancy his chances at the breakdown this weekend.8Juan Manuel Leguizamon – Far from a traditional openside, Leguizamon will have his work cut out to keep up with McCaw and Messam at the contact area. Great carrier though.7.5
8.Kieran Read – Bagged a try in the last game but was otherwise reasonably quiet in both Bledisoes. We all know what he’s capable of, however.8.5Leonardo Senatore – Big, bruising ball carrier who will add more go forward to the Argentine pack than Matera, who he replaced.7
9.Aaron Smith – Probably the best service of any scrum half in the game right now. Also not afraid to dart through a gap if it’s on.8.5Martin Landajo – Was outshone by his replacement last week. Needs to be more a of a threat with the ball, rather than merely shovelling it out every time.6.5
10.Beauden Barrett – A stupidly good player to have as third choice fly half. Has unparalleled vision, and the skills to execute too. Expect a statement.8Nicolas Sanchez – One of the most impressive players from the Salta near miss. Fluid with ball in hand, and brought his backs into the game superbly.7.5
11.Julien Savea – His try tally keeps ticking over, and while the guys inside him must take some of the credit he is probably the best finisher around.8.5Lucas Amorosino – Was kept pretty quiet against South Africa, and that is sadly not uncommon. Can be dangerous if he gets himself involved, however.6.5
12.Ma’a Nonu – With Conrad Smith back outside him, expect his level of performance to ratchet up a couple of notches. Not one of the ABs’ standout players so far.8Juan Martin Hernandez – Looked back to somewhere near his best in Salta. When he hits those levels, there are few more pleasing players to watch.7.5
13.Conrad Smith – Rarely takes the headlines, but does so much stellar work to make sure those around him shine. Expect more midfield telepathy now he’s back with Nonu.8Marcelo Bosch – His mammoth and yet unfeasibly accurate boot almost won Argentina their first RC game in Salta. Showed some nice touches with ball in hand too.7.5
14.Ben Smith – Shifted out to the wing, expect him to be every bit as dangerous when he gets the ball, such is his versatility.8.5Horacio Agulla – A solid, if unspectacular, winger. Usually trustworthy in defence, although that will be severely tested opposite Savea.7
15.Israel Dagg – Has been some way below his best this season. Lucky to come back into the team – needs to repay Hansen’s faith with a big performance.7Joaquin Tuculet – One of Argentina’s most dangerous players in the near miss in Salta. A dangerous counter attacker.7.5
TOTAL120109

PREDICTION

The scars from Salta will still be stinging Argentina. They were so close to their first Rugby Championship win, one that would have been richly deserved after a brilliant (attacking, at least) performance. That they still failed to win, however, is only going to make the most difficult trip in rugby even harder.

An away win on New Zealand soil is the rarest of rugby beasts. Their demolition of Australia in round two saw the All Blacks back to their best, showcasing every facet of their game with rumbling tries from the forwards and fluid backline moves both featuring heavily.

The Argentine pack should put up more of a fight this week, but it is very difficult to see how they can live with New Zealand’s attacking prowess. It will take a severely off colour day from the hosts to allow the Pumas even a sniff in this one. I can’t see it happening. New Zealand by 32.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images