Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Hansen wants same mastery from pack

All Black coach wants big performance to nullify threat of Pumas’ impressive eight.

Argentina gave a good account of themselves in Hamilton last year and pride themselves on their work at the set piece. Photo / Christine Cornege
Argentina gave a good account of themselves in Hamilton last year and pride themselves on their work at the set piece. Photo / Christine Cornege

Steve Hansen has challenged his forwards to repeat their devastating display against Australia when they meet Argentina in Napier on Saturday.

The All Blacks arrived in Hawkes Bay yesterday ahead of their Rugby Championship test against the Pumas, with coach Hansen wasting little time in putting the acid back on his big men as they prepare for what he called one of the best scrums in the game.

"At the very least they're going to have to front up in the same physical shape and mental shape as they did last week," Hansen said of his pack. "And that's about being accountable for their games and their roles and that's a start point."

He added of the Argentina set piece: "It's probably one of the best scrums in the world, isn't it? If you rate the South African scrum, they just demolished it so that will be a good test for us."

The Pumas were unlucky not to notch their first win of the Rugby Championship last weekend when they were beaten 33-31 by the Springboks in Salta.

A week before they lost 13-6 to the Boks in Pretoria.

Under new coach Daniel Hourcade they appear keen to develop their back play, but it can come at a cost.

In the final minutes last weekend they were in a promising position with an attacking scrum but elected for a quick feed and a botched wide backs move rather than keeping it tight in the hope of winning a penalty.

In their two previous tests in New Zealand they have presented a stern early challenge before falling 28-13 in Hamilton last year and 21-5 in Wellington in 2012.

Hansen's pack went to a new level in putting 50 points on Australia and claiming the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park after the disappointment of the week before in Sydney. The Pumas are again likely to be a serious proposition up front and defensively, so the All Blacks will need to combine physicality with patience.

Watch: Inside the All Blacks Bledisloe victory

Video

Hooker Keven Mealamu said of the Argentines' liking for scrummaging: "It's part of their DNA, part of their genetics. It's what they do, what they're known for. If you look at how they're built, a lot of them are a perfect build for forwards."

Hansen added: "They've just come off two very close battles with South Africa and probably should have won at least one of them, if not both of them.

"Their scrum is very, very good, their lineout has variation in it which makes it difficult to upset their ball. I've always thought they're one of the best defensive sides in the world - they show a lot of space on the outside but seem to be able to shut it down pretty quickly and their backs are looking to want to play. They've introduced a new fullback [Joaquin Tuculet] and he looks pretty sharp, so it's going to be an interesting contest."

Hansen confirmed hooker Nathan Harris would get game time in the test against the Boks in Johannesburg on October 6.

Dane Coles is likely to remain in New Zealand to be at the birth of his child, leaving the way clear for 22-year-old Chiefs player Harris, who has yet to make his debut.

The All Blacks are likely to have midfielder Ma'a Nonu back from his shoulder injury for Saturday's McLean Park test, but loose forward Jerome Kaino remains six weeks away because of his elbow problem.

Tale of the tape
Pack weights of starting forwards in last test
900kg All Blacks
879kg Argentina

- APNZ

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