Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby: Pumas name top team

Argentina look to have named their strongest team of the tournament so far for Saturday's match. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Argentina look to have named their strongest team of the tournament so far for Saturday's match. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Argentina believe they can beat the All Blacks - just don't ask when it may happen.

The Pumas have beaten most of the major nations in world rugby and have pushed the All Blacks close on several occasions but have only a famous Hugo Porta inspired 21-21 draw in 1985 to show for their endeavours against New Zealand in 16 tests.

That record is unlikely to change on Saturday night in Hamilton but coach Santiago Phelan feels they can get closer in the coming years.

"Last year we played well [in Wellington] and we need to follow that," said Phelan. "It is very important for us to have such a high level competition, especially these six games [in the Rugby Championship]. It's very tough but that is how we improve and compete. Every time we go on the field with the Argentina jersey we want to win but the most important thing is to give 100 per cent and the result will be a consequence of what happens there.

"It's good to be in the second year because we know what it is about and we know what is happening," said Phelan. "[However] but it is also [tougher] because the other teams know us and they are always improving."

Argentina look to have named their strongest team of the tournament so far for Saturday's match. Captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (53 tests) returns and first choice lock Manuel Carizza has recovered from a shoulder injury. One time Blues target Juan Martin Hernandez is also restored to the top XV, though he will play at fullback to make way for highly rated first five Nicolas Sanchez. Veteran Felipe Contepomi is on the bench, replaced by Santiago Fernandez but Phelan said it was simply "rotation" through a long tournament.

Pumas v All Blacks
Hamilton, 7.35pm Saturday
Juan Martin Hernandez
Gonsalo Camacho
Marcelo Bosch
Santiago Fernandez
Horacio Agulla
Nicolas Sanchez
Martin Landajo
Juan Manuel Leguizamon
Pablo Matera
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (c)
Julio Farias Cabello
Manuel Carizza
Juan Figallo
Eusebio Guiazu
Marcos Ayerza.

Reserves
Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Lobo, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Mariano Galarza, Benjamin Macome, Tomas Cubelli, Felipe Contepomi.

- NZ Herald

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