Rugby Championship 2015: All Blacks name team to play Argentina
Winger Waisake Naholo to make debut as Steve Hansen resists the urge to make wholesale changes after brutal Samoa win
New Zealand have made four changes to their starting XV for the 2015 Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Christchurch on Friday night.
In a side boasting more than 1,000 Test caps, Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo makes his All Blacks debut after topping the try-scoring charts and scoring the winning try in the Super Rugby final earlier this month.
We have a lot of respect for Argentina and what they bring and understand that we will have to improve our game quite considerably from our Samoan effort.
The 24-year-old comes in on the right wing for George Noala, who misses out through injury after scoring on his debut in a brutal 25-16 win over Samoa last week.
Despite the prospect of making wholesale changes after an out-of-sorts performance in a physical encounter with Samoa in Apia last week, head coach Steve Hansen and the selectors have taken a different view as they look to defend their title in this year’s shortened championship ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
“We have a lot of respect for Argentina and what they bring and understand that we will have to improve our game quite considerably from our Samoan effort,” Hansen said.
“With that in mind, the selectors did not want to make too many changes.
“It’s a fine balancing act between getting game time for those who need it, giving others the rest they may need, and giving ourselves an opportunity to see players and combinations in the heat of the Test battle so we can make good selections going forward.
“We know the Argentinians will be big and fast and bring a physicality to the contest, but we are also expecting them to bring some panache through their backs as we have detected a greater desire from them to involve their whole team in their game.
“It will be a special occasion for all the Christchurch men in the group playing in front of their home crowd and I know they are all looking to put in a big performance.”
Israel Dagg continues his injury comeback by keeping his place at full-back, with Charles Piutau on the left wing.
In midfield, Toulon-bound Ma’a Nonu returns at outside centre to partner Sonny Bill Williams, so Ryan Crotty has to make do with a place on the bench.
After steering the All Blacks to victory with 20 points and assist for Noala’s try, Dan Carter keeps the reins at outside-half ahead of Colin Slade, who keeps his place on the bench.
Hurricanes scrum-half TJ Perenara returns to partner Carter in place of Andy Ellis, who drops to the bench at the expense of Brad Weber.
Up front, the front row continues to boast two centurions in loosehead prop Tony Woodcock and hooker Keven Mealamu with Owen Franks keeping his place at tighthead.
World Player of the Year Brodie Retallick returns to the engine room in place of Sam Whitelock to partner Luke Romano, while the back row remains unchanged as Jerome Kaino keeps his place on the blindside alongside captain Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.
The bench sees Chiefs loose forward Liam Messam preferred to Matt Todd, while Jeremy Thrush provides cover at lock.
Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor could make his debut at his home stadium after replacing Hika Elliot with Wyatt Crockett and Nepo Laulala again backing up the props.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Waisake Naholo, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Charles Piutau; Dan Carter, TJ Perenara; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Brodie Retallick, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.
Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Jeremy Thrush, Liam Messam; Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty.
Argentina: Joaquín Tuculet; Horacio Agulla, Marcelo Bosch, Jerónimo De la Fuente, Santiago Cordero; Nicolás Sánchez, Tomás Cubelli; Marcos Ayerza, Agustín Creevy (captain), Ramiro Herrera, Manuel Carizza, Guido Petti Pagadizabal, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Facundo Isa.
Replacements: Julián Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Benjamin Macome, Javier Ortega Desio; Martín Landajo, Santiago González Iglesias, Lucas González Amorosino.