Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

'Cheap and nasty' not in ABs' plan

Kieran Read has made it clear the All Blacks won't shy away from the physical stuff against Argentina in Hamilton on Saturday but says his side are determined to keep it clean.

Flanker Pablo Matera will be free to play at Waikato Stadium after being cleared of eye-gouging Springboks counterpart Francois Louw in Mendoza last weekend, but No8 Leonardo Senatore hasn't made the trip thanks to his nine-week ban for biting the forearm of lock Eben Etzebeth.

Both incidents occurred in the second half of the match at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, won in the final minutes by South Africa 22-17 as the home side went all-out to avenge the 70-point thrashing in Soweto a week earlier.

The All Blacks will naturally look to dominate the Pumas up front - legally - but No 8 Read said their response largely depended on how the visitors conducted themselves.

"We're certainly not going to go out there looking to spoil or come at them in different ways.

Certainly, you've got to play clean and fair," he said. "What they do will dictate I guess a little bit but we're going to stay as clean as we can. There are ways you can dominate without being cheap and nasty."

Assistant coach Ian Foster said: "They [Argentina] responded I think how we'd respond in some ways after getting a 70-point drubbing. They got a lot more physical, a lot more aggressive, and really got very, very combative against the South Africans. I guess that's been their method for a number of years and they went back to it very successfully."

One of the curiosities of this All Blacks team is that while it is an extremely good one - the world champions lost one match last year (to England) and lost only two in 2011 (to South Africa and Australia) - they don't have a dedicated enforcer.

In the past men such as Jerome Kaino and Jerry Collins set the tone for the national team; the closest the All Blacks have to that pair is the increasingly tough locking duo of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.

While the All Blacks will hope to blow the Pumas away with the speed of thought and action, rather than get bogged down with any illegal stuff, their scrum is likely to receive a close examination by Argentina's big men.

The All Blacks believe they reacted better to the new scrum engagement laws in the second of their Bledisloe Cup victories over the Wallabies in Wellington a fortnight ago, but the set piece remains a priority, especially ahead of a test against the renowned scrummagers from South America.

"We've been making tweaks for the last few weeks," Read said. "Last week was a positive for us but it's a different beast with the Argentines. They certainly enjoy this part of the game. Their second shunt is one of the world's best so we'll be doing a lot of work this week, loading and staying in the fight."

Read will link again with Steven Luatua in a loose forward trio containing skipper Richie McCaw, adding he was impressed with how the 22-year-old Blues player is progressing after starting both Bledisloe Cup matches following his debut against France in June. APNZ

- APNZ

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