Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

All Blacks: Attack the priority in clash with Argentina

Andrew Hore. Photo / Getty Images
Andrew Hore. Photo / Getty Images

Refinement will be on the agenda for the All Blacks in Wellington this week.

They may have won both their opening games in the Rugby Championship with 27-19 and 22-0 victories over Australia, but both triumphs came in scrappy fashion.

Their scoreboard shutout of the Wallabies at Eden Park was an impressive defensive achievement, but their attacking execution let them down as they butchered as many as six try-scoring opportunities.

Improving this facet of their game before they meet Argentina at Westpac Stadium on Saturday is a priority for coach Steve Hansen.

"I'd like to put quite a bit of polish on it. I wasn't that happy with our last performance. I thought we played with great intensity and great purpose but we weren't very accurate and we need to be a lot more accurate if we want to be happy with our performance," he said.

The All Blacks will have a full quota of players available for selection, with Luke Romano and Tony Woodcock over the ailments that saw them miss the last test against Australia on August 25.

Taranaki pivot Beauden Barrett, who made his test debut against Ireland in June, will also spend time with the squad this week as he did before the test in Auckland recently.

New Zealand beat Argentina 33-10 at the quarter-final stage of last year's World Cup but the eventual winners were made to work.

"I think they're coming here to try and win this game as they did in the quarter-final [at the World Cup]. They were bitterly disappointed at the end of that ... and they clearly thought they could win and we'll be expecting them to come out and try and win the game and we'll be doing our utmost to make sure we win."

Argentina opened the Rugby Championship with a 27-6 loss to South Africa in Cape Town, but produced a much-improved display in front of their home crowd as they held the Springboks to a 16-16 draw in Mendoza last weekend.

The Pumas' last trip to Wellington saw them scrape past Scotland 13-12 in a group game at the World Cup, which proved vital in their run to the playoffs. They boast a big, confrontational forward pack and Hansen said he would not expect anything different from Argentina this week.

"Up front they're very, very strong and I think the backs are underestimated as well. They've got talented counter-attackers and big strong backs so I think they're a good side and they proved that last week when they should've beaten South Africa. So we'll respect them and we'll go into this game the same as we would against any top nation and try and prepare as well as we possibly can."

Hooker Andrew Hore knows the men wearing the small numbers on their backs will get the biggest workout. The Pumas have long been known for their strong scrummaging and intimidating forward play.

"They're pretty tough up front traditionally," the Taranaki hooker said.

"I've been lucky enough to play them three times and they definitely give you a hard go at scrum time and they play to their strengths as much as I know.

"It's just the way they've been brought up to play rugby. That's how they do it. Much like the French people, they take pride in being good and strong and getting dominance up front like most teams try and do. That's one of their strengths and they're big men."

Hore, 33, squeezed in a 40-minute shift for Taranaki last night as they held on to the Ranfurly Shield with an entertaining 49-40 victory over Tasman in New Plymouth.

Hore was asked if he had developed any rivalries with the Argentine front-rowers and he responded with some of his customary sly wit.

"I haven't had much luck with relationships lately so I've been chipping away there," he laughed. "Obviously it's good fun to have a bit of banter but the language barrier doesn't help me much either in these sort of games."


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