The game will be played in Hamilton

Argentina and New Zealand will clash tomorrow at the Rugby Championship in New Plymouth, New Zealand, tomorrow morning at 04:35 AM. Argentina’s Los Pumas will clash with undoubtedly the greatest force in world rugby, the All Blacks. Having recently been humbled both home and away by the Springbok, Los Pumas are going into tomorrow’s game as firm underdogs.

(As always, the All Blacks will perform the Haka prior to the match. The Maori war dance has become an iconic part of rugby and it’s well worth getting up at 4 AM to see it. Or you can hope they will put it on in the Boliche.)

The All Blacks have made seven changes to their starting line up. Flying winger Nehe Milner-Skrudder is returning to the Kiwi side after a two year absence, in which he was consistently hampered by injury.

New Zealand have made three other changes to their backs, with Israel Dagg in place of Rieko Ioane, Anton Leinert-Brown for Ryan Cotty at outside center and finally, Aaron Smith has been replaced at scrum half by TJ Perenara.

The remaining changes are in the Kiwi pack, with Vaea Fifita starting at blindside flanker, Ardie Savea at open-side flanker whilst Luke Romano has made the team at lock.

Not a weak New Zealand team (is there such a thing?) by a long shot, but it does certainly feature lesser known All Blacks, showing that they view this match more as an experiment, clearly in preparation for the impending showdown with South Africa.

Coach Alan Hansen, made the following comments to Fox Australia in regards to tomorrow’s upcoming fixture:

“This Test match is all about us taking opportunities. It’s an opportunity for our players to grow individually and collectively as a team,” later adding that “we’ve taken some key learnings from our first two tests against Australia and now it’s an opportunity to take those learnings into a test match against an old foe who we know pretty well now.”

“Argentina are a dynamic, physical team who are growing their style of game. They are a proud people as well so they’ll be desperate, so we’ll have to be ready for that challenge.”

Milner Slkudder returns after 2 years out injured.
Milner Slkudder returns after 2 years out injured.

Pumas coach, Daniel Hourcade has also made seven changes. In fairness to the Argentines, they weren’t demolished by South Africa (pronounced Saaarth Afrikaa), neither in Port Elizabeth or in Salta. In both cases it was more that they ran out of steam, typical for a squad that lacks depth. Time to call up Europe-based players? Certainly.

Unlike his Kiwi counterpart, Hourcade has been forced to make changes out of necessity rather than as a form of experiment.

Experienced back Juan Martin Hernandez, who has amassed 70 caps for the Pumas, is sidelined with a stomach injury, and has been replaced by Jaguares teammate Nicolas Sanchez. Whilst Ramiro Herrera has been ruled out by a back injury with Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro coming in at tight head prop. Tetaz Chaparro returning to the team after recovering from a head injury that ruled him out of the clash in Salta.

Youngster Benjamin Macome replaces mainstay Juan Manuel Leguizamon, and Javier Ortega Desio has beaten Tomas Lezana to the starting line up and comes in as a loose forward.

Tomas Lavanini, has been dropped from the 29 strong squad following his dismissal against South Africa. The lock being replaced by 22 year old Guido Petti.

Agustin Creevy retains the captain armband (who else?) and will lead the Pumas onto the field as they attempt to avenge last year’s thumping in Hamilton, where they lost 57-22.

Argentina has never beaten New Zealand, their best result was in 1985 when they drew with the All Blacks 21-21 in Buenos Aires.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pumas captain Agustin Creevy shows his emotion after an All Blacks try during The Rugby Championship match between Argentina and the New Zealand All Blacks at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata on September 27, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – SEPTEMBER 27: Pumas captain Agustin Creevy shows his emotion after an All Blacks try during The Rugby Championship match between Argentina and the New Zealand All Blacks at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata on September 27, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

So I interviewed a rugby specialist here in Buenos Aires ahead of the game in regards to tomorrow’s fixture to see if we could make a prediction.

Me: “Thank you very much for coming. Do you think Argentina has what it takes to overcome the might All Blacks away from home?”

Specialist: “No.”

There we have it folks. We can hope for good a performance. There are very few teams that can line up against the All Blacks in the hope of victory. For many it is about losing with dignity, Argentina included.

An Argentine victory in New Zealand would be a major sporting upset. And if it happens, I promise I will eat my hat. We shall see.

New Zealand:

1. Joe Moody
2. Dane Coles
3. Nepo Laulala
4. Luke Romano
5. Brodie Retallick
6. Vaea Fifita
7. Ardie Savea
8. Kieran Read – Captain
9. TJ Perenara
10. Beauden Barrett
11. Nehe Milner-Skudder
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
14. Israel Dagg
15. Damian McKenzie
16. Codie Taylor
17. Wyatt Crockett
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
19. Scott Barrett
20. Sam Cane
21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow
22. Lima Sopoaga
23. Ngani Laumape

Argentina:

15 Joaquin Tuculet
14 Santiago Cordero
13 Matias Moroni
12 Jeronimo de la Fuente
11 Emiliano Boffelli
10 Nicolas Sanchez
9 Tomas Cubelli
8 Benjamin Macome
7 Javier Ortega Desio
6 Pablo Matera
5 Matias Alemanno
4 Guido Petti
3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
2 Agustin Creevy – Captain
1.Lucas Noguera Paz.

16 Julian Montoya
17 Santiago Garcia Botta
18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan
19 Marcos Kremer
20 Tomas Lezana
21 Martin Landajo
22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias
23 Matias Orlando.