Vastly changed teams add spice to All Blacks' opener

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Lynn McConnell     19 Sep 2015     Getty Images

Whether Argentine coach Daniel Hourcade was leaving some experienced cards up his sleeve while using the reconnaissance opportunity in the Investec Rugby Championship or genuinely forced to leave key players out to allow them to recover from the exertions of their northern hemisphere contracts remains to be seen.

There is little doubt that the Pumas side named, with seven changes, including five in the forward pack, is a more experienced unit than the earlier side, and it is guaranteed that the extra muscle and experience brought back will have a lot to do with taking the All Blacks on in the mauling game which produced two tries in quick succession in Christchurch.

However, New Zealand is not without sustenance in playing experience as well. Ben Smith is back at fullback, and Conrad Smith at centre, after both were rested in Christchurch. Julian Savea returns to the left wing with Nehe Milner-Skudder on the right. Aaron Smith is back at halfback.

In the pack Dane Coles returns at hooker while Sam Whitelock brings the locking ranks up to full standard.

That returning experience means the All Blacks XV will be the most experienced in Test history with 1013 caps, the first time a side has pierced the 1000 cap barrier.

While the attention will naturally focus on the forward challenge the Pumas will bring to the encounter there is also a need to be aware of the threat in the backs. Two key players are the experienced Juan Martin Hernandez and fullback Joaquin Tuculet. Tuculet had been injured in pre-tournament training in Portugal but recovered sufficiently to be included for the game.

Hernandez was a member of the 2007 World Cup side which was the most successful Argentina unit in the event. They knocked over tournament host France in the opening game and continued to reach the play-off for third and fourth that year. Also in the side then were loose forward Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and prop Marcos Ayerza.

Twenty-year-old lock Guido Petti will become Argentina's youngest player at a World Cup since 1991, and at 193cm and 104kg, he concedes plenty to the New Zealand pair of Whitelock (202cm and 116kg) and Brodie Retallick (204cm and 120kg).

The sides have played 21 times, and the All Blacks have been successful on 20 occasions with the other game having been drawn. In World Cups they have met twice. At the first World Cup in 1987, New Zealand won 46-15 at Athletic Park in Wellington while in the quarter-finals at the last World Cup New Zealand won 33-10 at Eden Park.

New Zealand's goal is essential – to state with an emphatic display and to make the most of having their strongest side of the year to date on the field.