Preview: New Zealand v Argentina
New Zealand will be keen to make a statement of intent when they take on tournament strugglers Argentina in New Plymouth on Saturday.
Although they are unbeaten after two rounds of matches, the All Blacks are in second position in the standings, behind South Africa on points difference.
Their previous match in the tournament was a titanic battle against trans-Tasman rivals Australia and after a superb fightback they eventually claimed a 35-29 win over the Wallabies in Dunedin.
The men in black had to dig deep to win that match as they were under the cosh for large periods and only secured victory in that encounter’s dying moments courtesy of a brilliant Beauden Barrett try.
Head coach Steve Hansen has made several changes to his run-on side and although most of those alterations were done to give more established players a rest, players like TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Luke Romano and Nehe Milner-Skudder will be determined to make full use of a rare chance to impress Hansen from the beginning of a Test.
Argentina head into this clash with the proverbial mountain to climb and they will be wary of a backlash from their hosts after they underperformed in that last Test a fortnight ago.
Los Pumas held their own for most of their tournament opener against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth but ran out of steam in that Test’s latter stages and the Boks eventually claimed a 37-15 win.
With their next Test played in Salta, a better effort was expected from Argentina but, once again, they failed to deliver the goods and suffered a 41-23 loss to the Boks in that Test on home soil.
Apart from those losses, Argentina have had little to smile about since they reached the semi-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England as they have lost their last four Tests away from home, the last time they lost more on the road was a five-game drought in 2013.
Despite that narrow escape in their last Test, the All Blacks will be brimming with confidence as they head into this clash. The world champions are undefeated in 24 previous encounters with the Pumas and have won 22 on the bounce since a 21-all draw in Buenos Aires in 1985.
This will be the first Test played at Yarrow Stadium since New Zealand defeated France there 24-9 in June 2013. The All Blacks average 64 points scored per game from their three previous appearances at the venue.
2016: New Zealand won in 36-17 in Buenos Aires
2016: New Zealand won in 57-22 in Hamilton
2015: New Zealand won 26-16 in London
2015: New Zealand won 39-18 in Christchurch
2014: New Zealand won 34-13 in La Plata
2014: New Zealand won 28-9 in Napier
2013: New Zealand won 33-15 in La Plata
2013: New Zealand won 28-13 in Hamilton
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Ngani Laumape
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Matias Orlando
Date: Saturday, September 9
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)