The All Blacks team to take on Argentina in Buenos Aires tomorrow has a fresh look to it after Steve Hansen left five senior players at home. Liam Napier looks at five areas the All Blacks have the most to gain.
1. Vaea Fifita
Backing up one of the most impressive test starts won't be easy. Effusive in his praise for Fifita prior to his maiden start against Argentina in New Plymouth, Steve Hansen has gone full circle this week by attempting to keep a lid on expectations. Fifita is one of the best athletes the All Blacks have unleashed. In open field, at full stride, as we saw against the Pumas, he is a sight to behold. In his second start Hansen now wants him to do more tight work, noting he "ran past" a few rucks last time. Bring his level of aggressive physical intent to the breakdown and, if he hasn't already, Fifita will cement his spot for the end of year tour. All the while Jerome Kaino watches on nervously. Liam Squire, now the All Blacks' first-choice blindside, is on his way to South Africa. Every match Kaino is not involved, the more the clouds gather around his future prospects.
2. New look second-row
The last time the All Blacks started without both Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick
they lost to Ireland in Chicago. That's slightly alarmist but also no coincidence. Whitelock
and Retallick are the world's best locking combination, so influential in aspects that stretch well beyond the lineout. They will return against the Boks in Cape Town next week but this is a chance to build depth. Still, try as they might, the trio of Luke Romano, Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu, back from his own test hiatus, are unlikely to match the efforts of Retallick and Whitelock.
3. Damian McKenzie
Fair to say McKenzie has, to this point, been unconvincing at fullback for the All Blacks. There's been bright attacking moments, but too many errors for this level.
Strangely his biggest issue has been under the high ball-which was a strength at the Chiefs. This week McKenzie has the added responsibility of covering first five-eighth. While it's his natural position, and the one he'll fill for the Chiefs next year, juggling two roles is a hefty brief for someone playing his seventh test.
4. Beauden Barrett
His audacious flick ball in the romp of the Boks made every highlight reel but Barrett's last test against the Pumas was not so flash. Other than perhaps putting too much pressure on himself back at home in Taranaki, Barrett struggled when the Pumas sent shooters out of the line and regularly rushed him. This wasn't entirely his fault; those outside must identify space and the All Blacks were also dominated at the break down which created poor ball delivery. But look for Barrett to stand a bit deeper to allow more time and space. If the All Blacks get the ball away often enough this backline will score plenty of points.
5. Waisake Naholo
It has been a long time since we've seen the best from Naholo in a black jersey. So long, in fact, you probably have to go back to this time last year and the thrashing of the Springboks in Durban. Naholo was brilliant at times for the Highlanders this season. Look no further than the performance against the Lions and his schooling of Scottish wing Tommy Seymour. He also scored nine tries in 11 regular season games. For the All Blacks, though, it's a rather different story. His last appearance came almost three months ago, on the right wing in terrible Wellington conditions in the second Lions test where the All Blacks were reduced to 14 men after 24 minutes. Naholo barely saw the ball and was then knocked out by Sean O'Brien. Not the most memorable outing. Since then he's waited patiently behind Israel Dagg and Nehe Milner-Skudder, and will no doubt be keen to make an overdue impression.