All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has made several changes to his matchday squad for Saturday’s clash with Argentina in Buenos Aires.
In the forwards, loose forward Liam Squire will make his first Test start in his fourth Test, at blindside flanker, replacing the injured Jerome Kaino. In other forward changes, lock Patrick Tuipulotu will start alongside Brodie Retallick, with Sam Whitelock moving to the bench; Ofa Tu’ungafasi comes onto the bench as replacement prop for Charlie Faumuina; while Elliot Dixon comes into the 23 as loose forward cover.
In the backs, TJ Perenara will start at halfback, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow coming onto the bench, while Anton Lienert-Brown will start at centre in his fourth Test, replacing Malaki Fekitoa. Damian McKenzie has been picked in a matchday 23 for the first time and will become All Black number 1154 when he makes his expected Test debut from the bench.
Hansen said: “When it came to selecting this side, our key focus was to select a team that would maintain a high standard of performance and also allow us to grow our player depth and experience in the Test arena.
“We also took into consideration the fact that we have seven Tests under our belts this year and more Tests and a lot of international travel to come. The expectation is that this side will build on the performances we’ve produced so far this year and play a game we can all be proud of.
“Having said that, this weekend presents a massive challenge for us. Argentina are a very good team and we have a huge amount of respect for them. They put us under real pressure at times during the Test in Hamilton and we’ve worked really hard this week to prepare for what we expect to be coming this weekend.
“Argentina are playing in front of their passionate home crowd and will feed off that passion. They’ll bring their trademark physicality as well as their flair, and ability to offload, to the contest.
“We’ll have to start well to take the crowd out of the game. To do that we’ll need to bring intensity, purpose and accuracy to all aspects of our game.”
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c) 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Damian McKenzie