All Blacks: Carter key to exploiting Pumas' weaknesses

By Patrick McKendry of APNZ in Buenos Aires

Dan Carter will be back in the All Blacks for this weekend's test against the Pumas. Photo / Getty Images
Dan Carter will be back in the All Blacks for this weekend's test against the Pumas. Photo / Getty Images

The All Blacks believe they have identified weaknesses in an Argentine defence which so frustrated them recently in Wellington.

Repeatedly repelled in the wind and rain at Westpac Stadium, it was only in the final quarter that the All Blacks scored their two tries through Julian Savea and Cory Jane. However, they are confident they are better prepared to take advantage of the Pumas' defensive strategy of leaving space and then quickly filling the gap.

Having the experience of Dan Carter back for Sunday's Rugby Championship test at La Plata, near Buenos Aires, will also help. Carter missed the 21-5 victory over the Pumas and 21-11 win over the Springboks in Dunedin due to a calf injury but has made a timely return in place of Aaron Cruden for what is expected to be an extremely tight and intense match at a ground - the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata - which the All Blacks haven't yet seen, let alone played at.

Conrad Smith is one of the men outside Carter who is preparing to run through a blue and white brick wall but said the All Blacks had learned plenty from their last encounter.

"We looked at it the last time we played them but it's a different thing to experience it ourselves," Smith said of the Pumas' effective defensive screen. "I think as players we understand it a lot better now. That's the big difference, and we've trained for it a lot better, having had that experience."

Carter said of Argentina's defence: "They present a few opportunities for us but they tend to cover those extremely well.

You almost have to earn the right to attack against them and be extremely physical with the ball in hand but also really smart. They like to slide and push you to the sidelines and we have to make sure we do the fundamentals well - catch and pass and run straight."

Carter's coolness and confidence is just what the All Blacks need, Smith said.

"Playing over here in what we expect to be a pretty hostile environment, just having his cool head is going to be big for us and we'll rely on him directing us around the field and not get too flustered if things don't work out or we get put under a bit of pressure which should be the case."

Apart from Carter's return to the No10 jersey, other changes include Aaron Smith returning to halfback, with Piri Weepu dropping to the reserves. Sam Cane comes on to the bench in place of Victor Vito, and Ben Smith replaces Tamati Ellison as outside backs cover.

Coach Steve Hansen said Cane's promotion was due to Richie McCaw's haematoma on his leg suffered late in the match against the Springboks. "It just gives us an option there if that flares up," Hansen said.

Hooker Andrew Hore has retained his place against Keven Mealamu.

The All Blacks will break with tradition tomorrow (Sat nzt time) and not have a captain's run at the stadium due to the travel required. La Plata, the capital of the Buenos Aires province, is about an hour's drive from the team's hotel. It means Carter won't get to kick for goal at the stadium until the day of the game.

"I would prefer to get there the day before the game but it's quite a distance and logistically it doesn't make any sense so it's something I'll have to get used to but I'm not that worried," he said.

All Blacks team to play Argentina at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, kick-off 11am Sunday NZT is: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

* Patrick McKendry flew to Argentina courtesy of LAN Airlines (www.lan.com).

- APNZ

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