Christchurch - The pressure is on Dan Carter to reignite his running game
against Argentina on Friday as the All Blacks countdown to their Rugby World
Cup title defence.
The Argentina clash in Christchurch opens the fourth edition of The Rugby
Championship, a tournament the All Blacks have always won and in which they
have an impressive record of 16 wins, one draw and one loss from 18 games.
South Africa, the second most successful team, travel to Brisbane to play
Australia on Saturday in the other opening round match of a tournament which
this year loses some lustre to the bigger prize of the World Cup.
All four coaches will be juggling combinations through the southern
hemisphere competition to best prepare for the global tournament in England in
With Argentina fielding a renowned forward pack, conditions are ripe for a
tense, tight battle in temperatures expected to be around freezing point.
But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is keen to see Carter, the world's leading
Test points scorer, up the pace of the game and bring more variety to his play.
Carter won the world player of the year award when his peerless running game
helped the All Blacks trounce the British and Irish Lions 3-1 in their 2005
It is part of his game that has drifted off in recent years and if the All
Blacks telegraph anything before the World Cup it will be Hansen's drive to
bring it back.
"I think he can create more danger by carrying and once he gets that
back into his game then he's a very, very dangerous attacker because he can
carry, he can pass and he can kick," Hansen said.
The All Blacks have made six changes to the side that under-performed
against Samoa last week, including the introduction of wing Waisake Naholo, the
top try scorer in Super Rugby this year.
Naholo and fellow wing Julian Savea run off the end of a backline that
features a powerful centres pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams
Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade, whose side have only one win at home
against Australia from three years in the competition, fears his team face a
backlash from an All Blacks unit embarrassed by being held to a 25-16 win by
Samoa last week.
"Surely, they are going to correct what they have done. That's why they
are the best team in the world," he said.
Argentina captain Augustin Creevy said his side would have to be at the best
to get near the All Blacks, which will not be easy with the Pumas forced to
rest some players, including star playmaker Juan Martin Hernandez, who have
just completed an arduous season in Europe.
Their run-on side includes three players - Santiago Cordero, Facunda Isa and
Guido Petti Pagadizabal - who have not experienced Rugby Championship pressure
South Africa head to Brisbane with nine players added to the squad that
crushed a World XV last weekend, while captain Jean de Villiers has been left
at home to continue his recovery from a knee injury.
Schalk Burger is back in the starting line-up after impressing off the bench
last week, while coach Heyneke Meyer has made four other changes in the
reserves as part of a planned rotation in their World Cup build up.
"I've said last week that we will make changes, but it's also important
to keep some form of momentum. Saturday's match is going to be massive in the
context of our season and we have to ensure we tick the right boxes," said
With a huge contest expected at the breakdown, Burger will partner Francois
Louw and Marcell Coetzee against Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fardy and Michael
Hooper who held off former captain David Pocock for the number seven jersey.
The Wallabies have recalled Toulon-based Matt Giteau after a four-year
absence and reunited half-backs Quade Cooper and Will Genia.
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo,
13 Ma'a Nonu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Daniel
Carter, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read, 7 McCaw, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Brodie
Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo
Laulala, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Colin
Slade, 23 Ryan Crotty
Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Jeronimo De la Fuente,
11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa,
7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 5 Guido Petti
Pagadizabal, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy
(captain), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Substitutes: 16 Julian Montoya, 17
Lucas Noguera, 18 Nahuel Chaparro Tetaz, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Javier
Ortega Desio, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Lucas