With 2019 being a RWC year the Rugby Championship is to operate on a reduced capacity. There are to be three matches per team, rather than six as all teams play against each other on one occasion rather than doing so both at home and away.
Argentina’s opening match is to be the first of two games at home. It falls just two weeks after the Super Rugby Final and is to be against reigning champions, New Zealand.
Head Coach Mario Ledesma has elected for continuity. This comes in the form of thirteen Jaguares’ form the Super Rugby Final named to start for Los Pumas against the All Blacks. Joining them are foreign-based players Juan Figallo, and Nicolás Sánchez.
Figallo joins former captain Agustín Creevy, and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro in the front-row with Santiago Medrano to be his deputy from the bench. The replacement loose head is Mayco Vivas who will make his test debut should he receive game time.
Left out are Santiago Cordero, Ramiro Herrera, Facundo Isa, and Benjamín Urdapilleta. Of them all but Urdapilleta are expected to face Australia in the second round of the Rugby Championship while Urdapilleta is inline to play against South Africa in round three.
The All Blacks have handed a test debut to Crusaders winger Sevu Reece. He has been named to start on the wing following a sensational season of Super Rugby. His select comes just weeks after he turned-down selection from Fiji for RWC 2019.
Reece is one of five uncapped players named by Head Coach Steve Hansen. The other players on debut are to be Braydon Ennor, Josh Ioane, Luke Jacobson, and Atu Moli. All four have been named as replacements.
The run-on team has some of New Zealand’s, and the world’s, finest players. The team will be led by Sam Cane from flanker while Aaron Smith will play scrum half; Beauden Barrett fly half; Brodie Retallick lock; and Ben Smith fullback.
Argentina has never defeated New Zealand. Of the 28 prior matches the All Blacks have 27 wins with the closest result being a draw between the countries in 1985.
Argentina is well-placed to be competitive against the team name by Hansen, and certainly has the means of winning for the first time. The projected result, though is for New Zealand to win by 7 points.
1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy, 3 Juan Figallo, 4 Guido Petti, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 6 Pablo Matera (capt.), 7 Marcos Kremer, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 13 Matías Orlando, 14 Matías Moroni, 15 Emiliano Boffelli
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Joaquín Tuculet
1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Dane Coles, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Patrick Tu’ipulotu, 6 Vaea Fifita, 7 Sam Cane, 8 Ardie Savea, 9 Aaron Smith, 10 Beauden Barrett, 11 Jordie Barrett, 12 Ngani Laumape, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 14 Sevu Reece, 15 Ben Smith
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Atunaisa Moli, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Braydon Ennor
Date: Saturday, July 20
Venue: Vélez Sarsfeld, Buenos Aires
Kickoff: 15:00 local (06.00 Sunday NZT, 11:00 Pacific, 14:00 Eastern)
Referee: Angus Gardner (ARU)
Assistants: Andrew Brace (IRFU) & Alex Ruiz (FFR)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)