Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Pumas will improve on opening test

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

With two games behind them, I'm fully expecting Argentina to be competitive and challenging opposition for the All Blacks.

The Pumas' first game in the Rugby Championship was misleading. Most of their squad play in France, which is both a different level and style of rugby.

So when they came together as a team to play the Springboks in South Africa, I think it was a rude reality check: the Pumas are physically good enough, but the top two inches were probably not fully engaged. That result woke them up and when they headed back to Mendoza, I thought their tackling and ball carrying was great - really physical and robust.

I fully expect the All Blacks to win in Hamilton and it's obvious that they feel they need to improve some aspects of their game that weren't quite right against the Wallabies. But the key difference between the Wallabies and Pumas is that the latter have a steeliness and hardness to rely on in the final half hour. That difference will be noticeable in the scrums.

The Wallabies have always struggled with the hit. Under the new laws, that has not been such an issue but they did struggle with the push. They have so little teeth - they just don't seem to have the power - that they were getting done by the All Blacks.

The Pumas, on the other hand, have always been good at both the hit and the push and I think they will be as tough a scrummaging team as any of the top sides in the world.

Scrummaging will be an area where they could gain parity with the All Blacks and build their confidence from there. I wouldn't have too many worries about them coming here with a premeditated plan to deliberately unsettle the All Blacks with acts of foul play. I just don't see them as being that type of side, contrary to what happened in Mendoza with the eye-gouging allegation and the ban for biting.

In the case of Leonardo Senatore, I actually thought the South African, Eben Etzebeth, kind of got what he deserved for slamming his forearm into the Puma No 8's face.

I remember playing the Wallabies one year and I had the ball, had my head down and a few players helping me from behind when Wallaby hooker Phil Kearns came at me with his forearm up. He was trying to rattle my teeth and I think if you take a blatant forearm to someone, you run the risk of some kind of retribution being taken.

The Senatore incident was not in my view a case of the player setting out to bite - it wasn't like the time Johan le Roux bit Sean Fitzpatrick's ear-so I wouldn't read too much into it. I also don't think the All Blacks would put up with anything like that and there are enough strong characters to make sure anything like that is nipped in the bud early if it starts.

- NZ Herald

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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