By Nigel Yalden in Buenos Aires

The All Blacks' first test of 2019 is shaping up to be more of a fact-finding mission.

While a win against Argentina in the opening game of the Rugby Championship is the goal, seeing how a group without Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Joe Moody and Ryan Crotty goes is far more valuable to the selectors in World Cup year.

Not that the side is devoid of experience by any stretch, with all the key areas well covered in terms of leadership.

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Dane Coles and Brodie Retallick will command the tight five, captain Sam Cane leads the loose trio, the first choice pairing of Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett will run the cutter while vice-captain Ben Smith will oversee all from fullback.

The opportunity to learn about the new talent that has led Steve Hansen and his fellow selectors to start Sevu Reece on the right wing and give potential test debuts to Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson, Josh Ioane and Braydon Ennor, who have all been named on the pine.

Rieko Ioane is the most notable omission from the test squad, however, Hansen points to the Blues wing as an example of the selectors' thinking.

"When you look at Rieko not playing, it's a reflection of the fact that we already know that he's a very, very good test player," Hansen said.

"We need to find out about Sevu and some of those other selections we've made."

Josh Ioane has been named on the bench for the All Blacks' opening game of the year. Photo / Getty Images
Josh Ioane has been named on the bench for the All Blacks' opening game of the year. Photo / Getty Images

With the World Cup looming large, Ofa Tuungafasi and Vaea Fifita have been given the biggest chances to increase their stocks. Tuungafasi will start at loosehead prop as he looks to solidify his standing as the best dual-sided front row option while Fifita gets first crack at the up-for-grabs position of blindside flanker.

Hansen says the type of game Fifita played against Italy in Rome late in 2018 is what they want from their No 6.

"He was physical, he was good in the set pieces, he carried well and cleaned out well too.

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"It's one thing to be a talented athlete, but it's another thing to be a talented athlete with a work ethic. He showed us that against Italy and we'd like to see that again."

However, all the talk of finding out more doesn't disguise the fact that the bench is vastly inexperienced. Of the eight reserves, tighthead prop Nepo Laulala has the most test caps with just 17, yet that figure is double the number held by the other seven players combined.

Photo sessions aside, Jacobson, Josh Ioane and Ennor have yet to wear the All Black jersey, while Moli played the last 15 minutes of a rare midweek fixture against a French XV in 2017 which did not have test match status.

Crusaders duo Braydon Ennor and Sevu Reece have been named in the All Blacks' side to face Argentina. Photo / Getty Images
Crusaders duo Braydon Ennor and Sevu Reece have been named in the All Blacks' side to face Argentina. Photo / Getty Images

Brad Weber has played test rugby, but only a dozen or so minutes worth against Samoa four years ago.

"[There are] not all lot of caps there but there's a lot of talent," Hansen said of the bench.

All Blacks v Argentina

15. Ben Smith
14. Sevu Reece
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
12. Ngani Laumape
11. Jordie Barrett
10. Beauden Barrett
9. Aaron Smith
8. Ardie Savea
7. Sam Cane (c)
6. Vaea Fifita
5. Patrick Tuipulotu
4. Brodie Retallick
3. Angus Ta'avao
2. Dane Coles
1. Ofa Tuungafasi

Reserves: Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Nepo Laulala, Jackson Hemopo, Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Josh Ioane, Braydon Ennor.

- Nigel Yalden is in Argentina with the All Blacks thanks to Air New Zealand