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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Rugby Championship: All-change All Blacks look to wrap up title with a game to spare against Argentina

New Zealand make nine changes for game in Buenos Aires with Crusaders back David Havili named on the bench

Scott Barrett will start in the second row for the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship game against Argentina. Brett Phibb / New Zealand Herald
Scott Barrett will start in the second row for the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship game against Argentina. Brett Phibb / New Zealand Herald

The All Blacks have made nine changes to their squad to face Argentina on Saturday with one eye on the next World Cup as they looked to clinch the Rugby Championship with a game to spare.

The nine include uncapped Canterbury Crusaders utility David Havili, 22, who is on the bench and appears almost certain to get a run in the second half for the world champions.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said Saturday's Test in Buenos Aires was "a massive opportunity" to expand the All Blacks' options ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

"It is a chance to build real competition and depth in the squad, which is vital for where we want to get to over the next couple of years," Foster said.

The other changes include Luke Romano and Scott Barrett in the second row and Patrick Tuipulotu on the bench, while senior locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are rested.

The imposing Vaea Fifita, who turned the game with a brilliant try when the All Blacks beat Argentina 39-22 in New Zealand three weeks ago, returns to the blindside flank with Matt Todd on the openside for his first Test this year.

The backline changes hand a start for centre Anton Lienert-Brown and right wing Waisake Naholo, while Ngani Laumape provides cover from the bench.

"We've selected what we believe is a quality team and have high expectations that they'll go out and put in a strong performance this weekend," coach Steve Hansen said.

"We are under no illusion about what we'll be facing this weekend.

"After having a torrid tussle against us in New Plymouth, Argentina will be even more determined on their home pitch and in front of their passionate fans. Our job will be to start well and to put in a performance for the full 80 minutes."

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On the championship table, the All Blacks are eight points clear of South Africa who they play in the final round next week.

The All Blacks have faced Argentina 25 times with 24 wins and one draw. They have won the southern hemisphere title in four of the past five years.

Earlier this month in New Plymouth, Argentina led 22-15 early in the second half before the All Blacks, sparked by Fifita's try, scored 24 unanswered points.

Jack Dempsey, Marika Koroibete and Izack Rodda will all make their first starts for Australia in this year's tournament against South Africa on Saturday, with coach Michael Cheika saying the trio had earned their places in the first team.

Flanker Dempsey will replace Ned Hanigan, while Koroibete will pick up his second cap on the wing instead of Henry Speight. Rodda takes over from Rob Simmons among the locks.

Cheika said all three had deserved an opportunity to start after impressing off the bench in the Southern Hemisphere championship.

"I just thought I would give him a crack and give him a go," Cheika said of Rodda's inclusion, while adding Dempsey's selection was a case of "changing it up".

On Koroibete, the coach said: "He did well in the first game and now starting, he will have a chance to prepare himself for the whole week and get ready."

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