RugbyU: 'Hurt' All Blacks want Argentina to pay

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has marked Friday's Test against Argentina in Christchurch as a "must win", dismissing talk that the world's top-ranked side are more concerned with building for the World Cup.

Following a sluggish performance against Samoa last week when the New Zealanders struggled to a 25-16 victory - by far their smallest winning margin against the Pacific islanders - Hansen has called for immediate improvement.

"If you don't play well in a Test match it hurts. We didn't play well in our last one so it's been reasonably hurtful and this is our first opportunity to fix it," he said after naming the side on Wednesday.

The All Blacks have made six changes to the matchday 23 for the opening match in the Rugby Championship which also includes South Africa and Australia.

However, only four of 17 All Blacks squad members in the Otago Highlanders and Wellington Hurricanes who played in the Super 15 final less than two weeks ago have been called up.

Highlanders flyer Waisake Naholo, the top try-scorer in Super rugby this year, will make his Test debut alongside Hurricanes backs TJ Perenara and Ma'a Nonu with Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush in the reserves.

The other changes see Codie Taylor named as the reserve hooker and loose forward Liam Messam is also added to the bench.

Notable absentees include the three Smiths - the Highlanders' Ben and Aaron, and the Hurricanes' Conrad - but Hansen said the selectors "certainly haven't compromised on the quality of the team".

"There has been a lot of talk about the Rugby World Cup and so forth, but this Test match is all about the here and now.

"It's important that we get away to a really good start in the Rugby Championship... We will need to get points early if we are going to give ourselves a chance of winning the Championship." Hansen said some players needed to be rested after an exhausting Super rugby season while others need more game time to prove themselves, singling out fullback Israel Dagg who has been injured for much of the year.

"It's a big ask to be able to come back from no rugby and play Test rugby but we have no other options if we want to get him back into the level of performance he can produce. We've got to play him." Hansen has experimented with his backline combinations, pairing Nonu outside Sonny Bill Williams, reversing the roles from the last three times they have played together.

The one change in the starting forward pack sees current world player of the year Brodie Retallick replacing lock Sam Whitelock.

The All Blacks have won 19 and drawn one of their 20 previous Tests against Argentina.

After Friday, the two sides next meet on September 20 at London's Wembley Stadium in their opening World Cup match.

More about

Rugby
Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.