Christchurch - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has marked Friday's Test
against Argentina in Christchurch as a "must win", dismissing talk
that the world's top-ranked side are more concerned with building for the Rugby
Following a sluggish performance against Samoa last week when the New
Zealanders struggled to a 25-16 victory - by far their smallest winning margin
against the Pacific islanders - Hansen has called for immediate improvement.
"If you don't play well in a Test match it hurts. We didn't play well
in our last one so it's been reasonably hurtful and this is our first
opportunity to fix it," he said after naming the side on Wednesday.
The All Blacks have made six changes to the match day 23 for the opening
match in the Rugby Championship which also includes South Africa and Australia.
However, only four of 17 All Blacks squad members in the Highlanders and
Wellington Hurricanes who played in the Super 15 final less than two weeks ago
have been called up.
Highlanders flyer Waisake Naholo, the top try-scorer in Super rugby this
year, will make his Test debut alongside Hurricanes backs TJ Perenara and Ma'a
Nonu with Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush in the reserves.
The other changes see Codie Taylor named as the reserve hooker and loose
forward Liam Messam is also added to the bench.
Notable absentees include the three Smiths - the Highlanders' Ben and Aaron,
and the Hurricanes' Conrad - but Hansen said the selectors "certainly
haven't compromised on the quality of the team".
"There has been a lot of talk about the Rugby World Cup and so forth,
but this Test match is all about the here and now.
"It's important that we get away to a really good start in the Rugby
Championship... We will need to get points early if we are going to give ourselves
a chance of winning the Championship."
Hansen said some players needed to be rested after an exhausting Super rugby
season while others need more game time to prove themselves, singling out
fullback Israel Dagg who has been injured for much of the year.
"It's a big ask to be able to come back from no rugby and play Test
rugby but we have no other options if we want to get him back into the level of
performance he can produce. We've got to play him."
Hansen has experimented with his backline combinations, pairing Nonu outside
Sonny Bill Williams, reversing the roles from the last three times they have
The one change in the starting forward pack sees current world player of the
year Brodie Retallick replacing lock Sam Whitelock.
The All Blacks have won 19 and drawn one of their 20 previous Tests against
After Friday, the two sides next meet on September 20 at London's Wembley
Stadium in their opening World Cup match.
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 Woodcock
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
Joaquin 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 Gonzalez Amorosino