Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Inspirational captain will be big boost to chances

The sight of inspirational Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe roaring his men on to bigger and better things last year was a highlight of the new Rugby Championship and his presence if passed fit for Saturday's test will be a massive boost for the Pumas.

The No 8, who plays for Toulon in France, missed his side's two defeats to the Springboks because of a calf problem but is likely to make his comeback at Waikato Stadium.

"He's a great player, he's one of the best in the world for us," halfback Martin Landajo said. "He's a leader for us, it's important for us and the younger players [that he plays alongside]. When he's on the field it's much easier for us."

All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read respects his loose forward counterpart, saying last year on the eve of the clash in Buenos Aires that the now 31-year-old is up there with the best in the world.

However, it's Lobbe's leadership - he took over the captaincy from Felipe Contepomi four years ago - which sets him apart and all of that will be needed on Saturday in what is a daunting challenge for Argentina.

"I think we must play like we did against South Africa," said Landajo of their last outing against the Boks, a combative 22-17 defeat in Mendoza. "We were very confident, we had a good week of training. We must play our game ... we're hoping to do the same here, and hope to enjoy it, of course."

Of the All Blacks, who have begun the defence of their Rugby Championship title with two comprehensive victories over Australia, Landajo said: "They are a complete team. They have good backs and good forwards but although they are very good as individuals, as a team they are very good. They are the best team in the world.

"I saw both games [against Australia]. Even though the Wallabies started well in the early minutes of the game, the All Blacks managed to beat them very easily."

Landajo added he thought the new scrum laws favoured Argentina. "It's more technical and we are good at that." APNZ

- NZ Herald

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