Rugby: New starters stand out in Argentina

By Campbell Burnes

Patrick Tuipulotu got through just his second full game for the All Blacks and his allround display will have raised a smile from the brains trust.

The big Auckland lock was industrious and effective, especially in the first spell, claiming an early lineout and making some jolting tackles. He charged around like a man determined to show his wares after a frustrating 12 months with injury. Tuipulotu matched the early Pumas' intensity and physicality and then some. He gave the sort of performance the All Blacks have been waiting for and have known he can produce.

His efforts will give the selectors a pleasing headache as they contemplate their bench for Durban, should Sam Whitelock be reinstated, as expected. Tuipulotu was unused in the first two Rugby Championship tests as they opted against including a lock on the pine, but now, after Luke Romano had usurped the No 3 locking position, Tuipulotu may just have done enough to nudge ahead of the Crusader.

He understandably tired in the second stanza, but still made a trysaving tackle on Nicolas Sanchez, for which he was unfairly scrutinised for foul play.

Anton Lienert-Brown was the revelation at centre. We already knew he was good enough for test rugby, but he showed he is a viable alternative as either an All Black No 12 or 13 with an irresistible display both with and without the ball. The Chief ran a good short line off Beauden Barrett to score his first test try, and then made the last pass for no less than three further tries to Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith and Dane Coles.

This ALB effort shows he is a standout in higher company. It is hard to recall him playing this well for the Chiefs, though we have always known he is a staunch defender. His attacking game was reminiscent of his sparkling Junior World Championship semifinal in 2015 when he sliced up France. So the selectors now know they can rely on him in two positions and doing a job from the get-go or off the bench.

Liam Squire had a quietish match on the blindside flank. He made his tackles, but gave away some early penalties, and did not get his hands on the ball a lot. One would think Jerome Kaino will not be flying halfway around the world to sit in the bench in Durban, so Squire's best bet might be the No 20 jersey for the Springboks encounter.

- NZ Herald

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