Rugby Championship News

Barrett one of five All Black changes for Pumas

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New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made five changes to the starting side that beat South Africa in their last outing for this week’s Test against Argentina in La Plata on Saturday.

The most significant change to the side is Beauden Barrett being promoted to the starting line up after Aaron Cruden was suspended for missing the team’s flight to Argentina after a night out.

Ma’a Nonu’s injury sees Malakai Fekitoa coming into the starting line up at inside centre to partner Conrad Smith.

Hooker Dane Coles has returned to New Zealand for the birth of his first child so Keven Mealamu comes into the starting line up with Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris on the bench.

The forward pack features the return from injury of lock Samuel Whitelock and blindside flanker Jerome Kaino.

Hansen said that Argetina were a greatly improved team compared to last but the All Blacks were looking forward to the challenge.

“After a good week of preparation, we are really looking forward to, and excited by, the challenge that playing Argentina in Argentina brings.

“There is an expectation that we will have a quality performance full of excitement, energy, physicality and accuracy. To beat the Argentineans will require that of us, as they have been playing very well and have improved a lot since last year. With this being only their second home game in the Championship, there will be huge expectation on them to

Hansen said that while losing Nonu was a blow he was looking forward to seeing Fekitoa playing at twelve.

“Though it’s disappointing having Ma’a injured, it is a great opportunity for the young man and one I’m sure he will take.”

Hansen added he was also looking forward to seeing Nathan Harris make his Test debut off the bench.

“Nathan has been developing very well. It’s well known that we don’t have a lot of depth in this position, but we feel that Nathan is ready and capable of doing a very good job.”

New Zealand

Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Reid, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett

Replacements: Nathan Harris, Joe Moody, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Colin Slade, Cory Jane.

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