Preview: Argentina v New Zealand

New Zealand go in to their Rugby Championship Round Five clash with Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday as overwhelming favourites.

In Round Three, the All Blacks won 39-22 in New Plymouth. It was an admirable display from Los Pumas, who actually led 16-15 at half-time.

But expect the All Blacks to be less merciful this time around after their magnificent display against the Springboks a fortnight ago.

The statistics say it all, really. 

The All Blacks are undefeated in 25 previous encounters with the Pumas and have won 23 on the bounce since since a 21-all draw in Buenos Aires in 1985.

The reigning back-to-back world champions are currently on an 18 game winning streak against sides from the Southern Hemisphere since their defeat to Australia back in 2015.

The Pumas, in stark contrast, have lost nine of their last 10 matches, a solitary win against minnows Georgia the only positive result in this run.

Meanwhile, the All Blacks are on target to break the record they set last year for points and tries in an edition of the Rugby Championship.

Currently, they are averaging 6.8 tries and 46.3 points per game whereas last year's totals averaged out at 43.7 points and 6.3 tries.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is sticking with his squad rotation policy and has made six changes to his starting XV.

Crusaders utility back David Havili is set to make his Test debut after he was named on the bench.

As well as Havili, the matchday 23 for Saturday also features a number of other changes in the backs. Anton Lienert-Brown has been named in the 13 jersey, Waisake Naholo is on the right wing for his first match in the Rugby Championship, while Ngani Laumape will provide extra back cover.

In the forwards, Luke Romano and Scott Barrett have been named as the starting locks, with Patrick Tuipulotu named in the reserves, set for his first appearance for the All Blacks in 2017. Vaea Fifita is at blindside flanker and Matt Todd at openside in his fourth Test start.

Meanwhile, Argentina have made three changes, including two positional switches.

Head coach Daniel Hourcade has tweaked his pack, which did duty in their 45-20 loss to Australia in Canberra in Round Four, with veteran back-row Juan Manuel Leguizamón and second-row Tomas Lavanini returning to the starting line-up.

Leguizamón will play in his 80th Test for los Pumas and takes over at number eight from Tomas Lezana, who shifts to the openside flank. This means Javier Ortega Desio, who wore the number seven jersey against the Wallabies, drops down to the replacements bench.

Meanwhile, Lavanini returns as a replacement for Matias Alemanno who has been left out of the matchday squad. Lavanini was dropped for Argentina's Australasian leg of the competition after being sent off in their defeat to South Africa  in Salta last month.

The final change is in the back-line, where Joaquin Tuculet is back at full-back with Emiliano Boffelli moving to the left wing where he takes over from Ramiro Moyano.

Players to watch:

For Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet returns at full-back for the Pumas. His aerial prowess and game-breaking abilities can cause some serious problems for the All Blacks if he is given time and space or if any pointless up-and-unders are sent his way. 

For New Zealand: Waisake Naholo comes in on the right wing. He is one of the deadliest finishers in world rugby as he combines speed with quick feet and incredible strength. He will be eager to perform well and become a regular starter once again. This extra motivation can be a threat to Argentina's defenders.

Head-to-Head: Dane Coles and Agustin Creevy are two world class, experienced hookers. Coles is quick and skilfull, while Creevy is more of a traditional, hard-man hooker. Both men will be vital on defence and will be used as ball carriers throughout. Whoever gains ascendency could have a big say in the final outcome of this Test.

Previous meetings:

2017: New Zealand won 39-22 in New Plymouth
2016: New Zealand won 36-17 in Buenos Aires
2016: New Zealand won 57-22 in Hamilton
2015: New Zealand won 26-16 in London
2015: New Zealand won 39-18 in Christchurch
2014: New Zealand won 34-13 in La Plata
2014: New Zealand won 28-9 in Napier
2013: New Zealand won 33-15 in La Plata
2013: New Zealand won 28-13 in Hamilton
2012: New Zealand won 54-15 in La Plata
2012: New Zealand won 21-16 in Hamilton
2011: New Zealand won 33-10 in Auckland

Prediction: The All Blacks should still cruise despite fielding a weakened team. All Blacks by 20.

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera 
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Juan Martin Hernandez, 23 Santiago Cordero

New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 David Havili

Date: Saturday, September 30
Venue: Estadio Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
Kick-off: 19:40 local (22:40 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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