The All Blacks recently romped to a dominant win over Argentina, but New Zealand coach Ian Foster has made drastic changes to his team ahead of their Rugby Championship rematch
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New Zealand extended their Rugby Championship lead after thumping Argentina 39-0 last Sunday, but that hasn’t prevented coach Ian Foster from ringing the changes for their rematch.
The two teams collide once more at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday, and the All Blacks have swapped no fewer than 11 personnel among their starting XV.
Chief among those changes is the return of Ardie Savea, who will start at openside flanker after a head injury the previous week meant he missed the team’s first win over the Pumas.
Savea was forced off early during New Zealand’s 38-21 victory over Australia in Perth a fortnight ago, a miserable end to his first game captaining the national team.
Luke Jacobson crossed over for two of his side’s five tries in their first meeting with the Pumas, but he’ll look to make a mark off the bench as Hoskins Sotutu starts at No. 8.
Fly-half Beauden Barrett remains in the squad but drops to the bench in the place of Damian McKenzie, while younger brother Jordie keeps his place in the full-back jersey.
Rieko Ioane was called up to start against Argentina at late notice following an injury to Anton Lienert-Brown last time out, and he’ll remain at outside centre.
Chiefs centre Quinn Tupaea was a last-second addition to the bench for that game and will make only his second New Zealand start at Suncorp Stadium.
Club team-mate Samisoni Taukei’aho earns his maiden Test start at hooker, meanwhile, after Foster named an entirely new front row for Saturday.
“With five Tests in a row and a six-day turnaround between these two Argentinian Tests, we were always going to make some selection changes,” the All Blacks coach told reporters on Thursday.
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“Five Tests in a row demanded that. But the good thing is that we have a group that has been focussing on the same opposition for the last two weeks, so our preparation time hasn’t been compromised.
“We are expecting a huge response from Argentina and we have to make sure we are prepared for that because we know what a wounded beast is like.
“The key is not so much how they respond, but how we respond. If we go into this Test match thinking it’s just going to happen for us like last week without earning the right to have the scoreboard in our favour, then we are in trouble.”
Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has made six changes of his own, at least one of which was enforced after fly-half Nicolas Sanchez came off last weekend due to a leg injury.
Gloucester utility Santiago Carreras—who usually plays on the wing or at full-back—will become the third player to start at fly-half for Argentina in this Rugby Championship.
Carreras, 23, came off the bench to make his first international appearance at fly-half when Argentina lost 38-0 to New Zealand last November, but this will be his maiden start in the role.
Sevens star Lucio Cinti will make his first Test start in only his second Pumas appearance , partnering fellow centre Santiago Chocobares as he’s recalled to the XV.
Enforcer Pablo Matera makes the move to No. 8 after Rodrigo Bruni was injured on the Gold Coast, meanwhile, as Juan Martin Gonzalez trades up for a starting spot at blindside flanker.
Clermont-bound Tomas Lavanini has also been promoted from the bench in the place of lock Guido Petti, with hooker Julian Montoya returning as captain.
New Zealand boast a five-point lead over South Africa at the summit of the Rugby Championship, and they’ll hope to stretch that gap further by taming the Pumas in Brisbane.
The All Blacks will face the Springboks in their final two games of the tournament, but the title could be all but assured ahead of that double-header depending on Saturday’s results
New Zealand team
(Backs) Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge, Damian McKenzie, TJ Perenara; (Forwards) Hoskins Sotutu, Ardie Savea (c), Ethan Blackadder, Tupou Vaa’i, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Joe Moody
Reps: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Braydon Ennor
(Backs) Juan Cruz Mallia, Santiago Cordero, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Chocobares, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; (Forwards) Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno, Santiago Medrano, Julian Montoya (c), Facundo Gigena
Reps: Santiago Socino, Carlos Muzzio, Enrique Pieretto, Guido Petti, Tomas Lezana, Gonzalo Garcia, Domingo Miotti, Matias Moroni