Rugby Championship

All Blacks stick up for under-pressure Pumas

2017-09-08 10:35
Steve Hansen (Getty)

New Plymouth - New Zealand talked up Argentina as a "dangerous" foe on Friday on the eve of their Rugby Championship Test in New Plymouth, dismissing the South Americans' form slump over the past two years. 

After rising to fifth in the world rankings when they made the 2015 World Cup semi-finals, Los Pumas have since dropped to 10th despite a regular diet of Rugby Championship matches against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. 

"I don't take any notice of those rankings. The history of this championship is they have been very tough opponents for us, even here in New Zealand," All Blacks captain Kieran Read said.

"They're unpredictable. They've certainly got some players who've got experience - in Super Rugby and at this level - so (they are) a dangerous side."

Since Argentina joined the championship in 2012, in a move aimed at lifting their standard of play, they have never beaten New Zealand in 10 matches with the All Blacks scoring 44 tries to 11 and producing an average winning score of 36-14. 

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen argued that Argentina were in a difficult situation with an arduous travel schedule to reach any of the top tier playing nations. 

"They've gone from being a team that was spread all around the world, which has its ups and downs, to a team that were brought together and put into the Super Rugby competition," he said.

"Now they play four or five home games every year and then their next closest game is New Zealand, which I think is 15 hours' flight time. 

"It's a horrific schedule they've got. I think that takes a lot out of them. I certainly wouldn't want to be doing it, but it is what it is for them." 

Hansen and Read also had sympathy with the underperforming Argentines as they tried to move away from their traditional brute-strength forward game to play more open rugby. 

"Through Super Rugby they've developed more of a rounded game and have they got to where they want to get to? I don't think so yet," Hansen said. 

"Has that been at the expense of some of their forward play? Not sure. But there will be some compromising going on if you're trying to work hard on your other type of game."

Read said it was obvious they were no longer a one-dimensional side and had threats across the park. 

"Probably their ball carriers in the loose forwards are among the best in the world and their backs, on their day, are pretty dangerous counter attackers, alongside that is the scrum and the maul.

"So a dangerous side. they've certainly got better playing in this championship." 

When Los Pumas arrived in New Plymouth on Friday, after a week training in Auckland, captain Agustin Creevy accepted there were problems but said they were being addressed. 

"We are training a lot. We know we have to improve our scrum so we can get the scrum we used to have before," he said. 

He added they were also learning that the Jaguares in Super Rugby had to be handled differently to Los Pumas, but the project of keeping most of the Test players together year round had to continue. 

"It is not the same for Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship so we are learning about that and taking the good points to develop. This is part of the sacrifice we have to make for the future of Argentina rugby."

Teams:

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 (captain), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody

Substitutes: 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 (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz

Substitutes: 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

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