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All Blacks v Argentina: 5 Key Match-ups

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Andrew Burt for allblacks.com     19 Sep 2015     Getty Images

Argentina have improved steadily since being included in the Rugby Championship in 2012 and their stunning victory over South Africa just six weeks ago show the Pumas deserve to sit at the top table in world rugby.

The All Blacks are well aware that the men from South America now boast more than just a powerful scrum and have match-winners across the park. We take a look at five key match-ups that could decide the crucial All Blacks vs Argentina Pool C clash.

Dane Coles vs Agustin Creevy
The world’s two best ball-playing front-rowers go head-to-head in an unlikely clash of speed and silky skills.

Creevy made his Test debut as an openside flanker before making the switch to hooker in 2009, adding another level of mobility to Argentina’s forward pack. Dubbed “Sonny Bill” Creevy by fans at his former French club Montpellier, Creevy showed the All Blacks just how dangerous he can be with a two-try effort in Christchurch earlier this year.

During this year’s Rugby Championship Coles showed that anything Creevy can do, he can do better. The All Blacks hooker showed great pace in scoring crucial long-range tries against both South Africa and Australia.

Normally a front-row battle is decided by muscle, but this one could be decided by speed and game-breaking ability.

Julian Savea v Juan Imhoff
While the All Blacks are blessed with one of world rugby’s most potent attacking weapons in Julian Savea, Argentina boast a lethal finisher of their own in Juan Imhoff.

Imhoff blitzed South Africa with a hat-trick of tries in Argentina’s historic 37-25 win in Durban and will be looking to repeat the dose against the All Blacks.

Like Jonah Lomu did in 1995, Savea has the potential to be the star of the 2015 edition. If he can blaze a trail through Argentina’s defence in the opener, it could just lay the platform for a dream tournament for ‘The Bus’.

Conrad Smith vs Marcelo Bosch
Almost identical in size and stature, an intriguing mid-field clash awaits two of the world’s most polished centres – Conrad Smith and Marcelo Bosch.

While both backlines are stacked with game-breakers and play-makers, the thirteen jersey is the glue that holds it all together. Both players possess a game based on precision, staunch defence and minimisation of mistakes.

With the tale of the tape coming up even between the pair, it could just be Bosch’s booming right boot that proves the difference. The Argentinian is a long-range goal-kicking specialist and if the All Blacks infringe anywhere in their own half, Bosch could make them pay dearly.

Aaron Smith vs Tomas Cubelli
Aaron Smith has the set the bar for what a modern-day halfback should be – fast, accurate and visionary. While Smith has secured his place as the world’s premier halfback, Argentina’s Thomas Cubelli is not far behind.

With a bullet-pass and live-wire running game, Cubelli has been targeted by the Brumbies as a replacement for former Wallaby Nic White for the 2016 Super Rugby season. Cubelli starred in Argentina’s dismantling of South Africa in Durban earlier this year and will be looking to get on top of Smith early if Argentina are to cause a World Cup boil over.

Richie McCaw v Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe
While skipper Richie McCaw carries legend status in New Zealand, veteran Fernandez-Lobbe is Argentina’s talisman.

At 6 foot 4 and 110 kgs, Fernandez-Lobbe is known for his brutal ball running and extraordinary work-rate. Fernandez-Lobbe will take inspiration from the 2007 Rugby World Cup where he was one of Argentina’s strongest performers as they achieved a tournament best finish of third. McCaw is looking to become the first captain to win back-to-back World Cups and faces a stiff challenge from one of Argentina’s bruising best. One thing is for sure, whoever comes out on top of this ding-dong battle will have earned it.