Changes were well flagged but Steve Hansen has pulled a few surprises from his selection hat by making seven adjustments to the starting All Blacks team to face the Pumas in New Plymouth this week.

With Ryan Crotty, Aaron Smith, Liam Squire, Rieko Ioane and Sam Whitelock all given the week off, Hansen's selections are notable for those missing as much as those promoted.

Sweeping change - almost half the team - speaks to the faith the All Blacks have in their deputies; the need to grow experience in certain areas, and the Pumas' struggles over the past year.

After making his return from a broken foot with the Hurricanes and Manawatu, Nehe Milner-Skudder is back for his first test in almost two years but not where you might expect.


Milner-Skudder has started all eight tests on the right wing. This week, he dons the No 11 jersey for the first time at this level, pushing Ioane out with Israel Dagg replacing Ben Smith on the right edge.

The All Blacks have been patient with Milner-Skudder, leaving him out of the British and Irish Lions series. But they now feel his spectacular step, timing and attacking potency is ready to be unleashed again.

Milner-Skudder will link in the back three with Damian McKenzie, who has been retained at fullback despite an indifferent display against the Wallabies in Dunedin. With Ben Smith on sabbatical and Jordie Barrett recovering from shoulder surgery, options at the back are somewhat limited.

The promotion of Vaea Fifita for his maiden start at blindside is another talking point. The athletic Hurricanes loose forward is dynamic but raw, with only 23 minutes of test experience after coming off the bench against Samoa just prior to the Lions series.

Fifita's chance to impress in the absence of Squire and Jerome Kaino comes alongside Hurricanes team-mate Ardie Savea who makes his third start at openside with Sam Cane dropping to the reserves.

TJ Perenara will also be keen to make the most of a rare start - his ninth in 35 tests. While focus will fall on his delivery and kicking game, Perenara's strong defensive presence around the ruck and support play should be assets.

The All Blacks have resisted the urge to grow Lima Sopoaga's time in the saddle from the get go, allowing Perenara to form a familiar combination with local favourite Beauden Barrett.

Other changes in the backline see Anton Lienert-Brown partner Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield, bringing Ngani Laumape onto the bench. There must have been a temptation to build continuity in the midfield after Crotty had been cleared of concussion, but with the Springboks next week and long-haul travel looming, the All Blacks are clearly conscious of monitoring workloads.


The final surprise comes at lock where Luke Romano comes in for Whitelock. Most suspected Scott Barrett, preferred by the Crusaders over Romano, would earn his second start but his impact will instead be utilised off the bench.

"This test match is all about us taking opportunities," Hansen said. "It's an opportunity for our players to grow individually and collectively as a team, not only in our preparation throughout the week, but in our performance on Saturday.

"We've taken some key learnings from our first two tests against Australia and now it's an opportunity to take those learnings into a test match against an old foe who we know pretty well now. Argentina are a dynamic, physical team who are growing their style of game. They are a proud people as well so they'll be desperate (after their losses against South Africa) so we'll have to be ready for that challenge.

"We've had a great build up here in New Plymouth, it's a real rugby city and the people have made us feel really welcome so we're all looking forward to Saturday."

All Blacks team to play Argentina in New Plymouth on Saturday:

Damian McKenzie, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Joe Moody

Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, Ngani Laumape