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Preview:NZ v Argentina

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Sportal.co.nz     06 Sep 2012     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Saturday September 8, 19:35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 14 - New Zealand 13, Argentina 0, Draws 1.

LAST TIME: October 9, 2011 (Auckland-World Cup) - New Zealand 33-10 Argentina.

WALKING WOUNDED: A welcome return from injury for Argentina has been provided by ace five-eighths Juan Martin Hernandez. Since his outstanding World Cup in 2007 Hernandez has been plagued by injuries but he will add significant steel to the side. Also back and adding to the experience on call is loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon who has been suffering a stomach injury. New Zealand has welcomed back prop Tony Woodcock, who will be an essential element against the strong scrummaging Pumas while centre Conrad Smith is back after his eye injury and will be a more than adequate foil in the absence of Sonny Bill Williams. In an 11th hour situation Dan Carter became a victim of Wellington again - this time with a calf injury.

FORM:All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the fact former coach Graham Henry would have been putting his analytical skills to work for Argentina would be a factor in the game. It would be good for the All Blacks because Henry would be looking for the Pumas to attack them in different places. The Argentinians would be excited about participating in the tournament just as the All Blacks were about playing them, Hansen said. He also acknowledged Argentina had some outstanding backs who they seemed reluctant to use, certainly not as often as he would look to use them but he was wary of them being let loose against New Zealand.

Argentina will also have carried a degree of confidence with them from Mendoza where they had the better of South Africa for much of the game. They made life miserable by attacking South Africa at the breakdown and a similar ploy can be expected against the All Blacks. One point that will be of interest is the manner in which Hernandez looks to play the game. If he elects to employ a kicking game he will need to be accurate because New Zealand fullback Israel Dagg had a superb game in the air against Australia and could ignite the All Blacks attack if given the slightest margin of error from Argentina.

WHO'S HOT: Skipper and No.8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe was a key playmaker in the draw with South Africa, especially at the breakdown but also in his defensive play. Both props, Rodrigo Roncero and Juan Figallo were also prominent and will need to be well contained by the New Zealanders. Second five-eighths Santiago Fernandez scored a try as a result of good support play against South Africa and will need to be at his best marking Ma'a Nonu. All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw took the game to Australia at Eden Park with some crunching runs while No.8 Kieran Read looked back to his best shape. They will be crucial in the breakdown phases where Argentina will seek an edge. Should the All Blacks manage to get tidy ball for halfback Aaron Smith, the time he produces for his outside backs could swamp Argentina out wide. Faced by a player with a reputation in Hernandez, Aaron Cruden will be well tested.

WE THINK: Argentina will throw the kitchen sink at the All Blacks from the outset. Putting them off their game which even when below full effectiveness against Australia will be their aim. But that approach requires deadly accuracy and any slip-ups will be quickly punished by the home team. Many are predicting a slower type of game in what are expected to be damp conditions in Wellington. However, if able to maintain the intensity achieved against Australia, the All Blacks will ensure Argentina are not in the hunt. All Blacks by 10.

TEAMS:

New Zealand1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Keven Mealamu, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Brodie Retallick, 6.Victor Vito, 7.Richie McCaw (Captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Aaron Cruden, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Andrew Hore, 17.Charlie Faumuina, 18.Samuel Whitelock, 19.Liam Messam, 20.Piri Weepu, 21.Beauden Barrett, 22.Ben Smith.

Argentina1. Rodrigo Roncero, 2. Eusebio Guinazu, 3. Juan Figallo, 4. Manuel Carizza, 5. Patricio Albacete, 6. Julio Alfredo Farias Cabello, 7. Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 8. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (capt), 9. Nicolas Vergallo, 10. Juan Martin Hernandez, 11. Horacio Agulla, 12. Santiago Fernandez, 13. Marcello Bosch, 14. Gonzalo Camacho, 15. Martin Rodriguez.

Replacements: TBC

REFEREE: R Poite (France)