Herald rugby writers Patrick McKendry, Nigel Yalden and Campbell Burnes answer three key questions ahead of the Rugby Championship international between the All Blacks and Argentina tomorrow morning.
The All Blacks are listed on the New Zealand TAB as $1.07 favourites with Argentina at $7.10. Is that a fair reflection of the gap between the two sides and does that mean we should expect a comfortable All Blacks victory?
Patrick McKendry: Yes, that's a fair reflection of the gap, but I suspect the All Blacks will be made to work hard to gain dominance before another last-quarter blitz. The Pumas will be up for this one after their disappointment in letting it slip in Hamilton and losing to the Wallabies in a poor performance. But these All Blacks appear to like playing in Buenos Aires, and the home side have had to do a lot of travelling lately.
Nigel Yalden: The odds are a fair reflection that the All Blacks are expected to win and recent form fully justifies that. Since Argentina entered the Rugby Championship in 2012, the All Blacks have won the nine tests played (including the RWC pool game) by an average of 22.5 points, so a similar winning margin should be expected: maybe even greater as the conditions will suit the All Blacks style of game maybe more so than they do at home.
Campbell Burnes: The discrepancy with those TAB odds sounds about right when you consider the All Blacks, who took a long time to crack into gear in the Hamilton test versus the Pumas, ran away with a 57-22 victory. Not bad for about 30 minutes of good rugby. Sam Whitelock and Aaron Smith are the only front-liners being rested against the Jaguares in another guise. One would think the Pumas, who missed a trick by playing poorly in the loss to the Wallabies in Perth, will need close to 80 minutes of quality to have any chance of an historic victory, all the while hoping that the changes made to the All Blacks disrupt their flow and mojo. Fat chance.
Which All Black has the most to gain or lose in this match (and why)?
Patrick McKendry: Anton Lienert-Brown. The Chiefs midfielder could put some pressure on the selectors to keep picking him ahead of Malakai Fekitoa if he plays well alongside Ryan Crotty. A composed performance off the bench in his first test could also set up Damian McKenzie nicely.
Nigel Yalden: A strong showing from Anton Lienert-Brown starting at centre, to back up his impressive starting debut at second five, will push him further up the midfield pecking order. To be seen as a genuine starting option in both positions at the age of just 21 will be massive for his future prospects in this group.
Campbell Burnes: Patrick Tuipulotu has the most to gain or lose in the starting XV. The 23-year-old has fallen behind Luke Romano in the pecking order for the third lock status behind the pairing of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick. This will be just the second start in 10 tests for the Aucklander, but injury has stalled his career in 2015-16. If he can bring his trademark aerial skills and muscular athleticism, as he showed in his last outing for Auckland against Waikato three weeks ago, then it will be a major boon for Tuipulotu and the team. Fail to impose himself, and he will stay squarely at No 4 in the rankings.
Some have said the All Blacks' winning run is boring. Would defeat on Sunday be good for world rugby?
Patrick McKendry: No. Forget boring, it's up to the other nations to catch up. I've written it before, but I find the All Blacks' constant striving for perfection inspiring. So should the Pumas, Wallabies, Boks, and every other rugby-playing country.
Nigel Yalden: The All Blacks winning run is anything but boring, but its also obvious that the Pumas beating the All Blacks would be a huge moment given that they haven't done it before, hence it would be historic. It would be good for others around the world simply because it would prove that this All Blacks team in beatable. The flipside is that the All Blacks, under Steve Hansen's charge, have become stronger after losses, so perhaps a loss might mean it wont be all beer'n'skittles for future opponents.
Campbell Burnes: The answer to this one depends on your outlook on sport. If your major thrill in watching sport is to see a close contest, then an All Blacks defeat could be like manna from sporting heaven. World rugby (and World Rugby) would love to see the All Blacks brought down a peg or two as they want to see competitiveness among all their top tier nations.
But if you watch sport to see the best team play to the highest levels of skill, then you won't want to see The No 1 team in the world beaten. If they put 50 points on the Pumas in the Buenos Aires cauldron, and show all their qualities, who would find that boring?