The mighty New Zealand will host Argentina at Trafalgar Park, in Nelson, in the third round of the 2018 Rugby Championship.
It has been a casual run in the first two rounds for the All Blacks, who continued their perfect domination of this competition with two big wins against Australia (by 25 and 28 points). Things are expected to continue in the same way in this third round, as Argentina can`t possibly be expected to challenge for a win, considering that New Zealand barely showed any weaknesses at all in the first two rounds. The All Blacks seem to be at their absolute best right now, which would be a scary prospect for any opponent.
After a poor run of results in the last two years or so, capped by a horrific showing in the June test window, Argentina finally parted ways with coach Hourcade and brought in Jaguares manager Mario Ledesma. The team entered the Rugby Championship on the back of three horrible home losses over the Summer against Wales “B” (twice) and Scotland “B”. However, the hiring of Ledesma seems to have had the expected impact. Argentina lost the opening match by 13 points in South Africa (in all honesty they should have lost by more), and claimed one of their biggest ever wins in the next round, dismantling the Springboks 32-19 in Mendoza.Bet on New Zealand vs Argentina and claim your 100% (100 Eur) bonus at Ohmbet!
Team news & lineups:
New Zealand was expected to rotate the squad in this clash and indeed they will make 7 changes here compared to their previous lineup (Moody being the only new injury). The All Blacks obviously have a ton of depth so the rotation shouldn`t affect them too much, but one change could have a big impact: Beauden Barrett, the engine of New Zealand`s offense has been left out of the squad. Mo`unga is more than a capable replacement and he will be fired up, but still Barrett is one of the few irreplaceable players for the All Blacks and it will be interesting to see how the team fares without him. Sam Whitelock’s absence could also weaken NZ’s scrum a bit.
Argentina has two massive absences in the form of Figallo and Bertranou. Matera is also hurt and will not start, but he should be on the bench.
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Chaparro Tetaz, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
New Zealand has won 25 out of the 26 matches played against Argentina, with the Pumas only able to get a draw back in 1985. Last year in the Rugby Championship New Zealand won by 26 points in Argentina, but the Pumas actually competed very well on the road in New Zealand, only losing by 17 points.
Argentina will be pumped up after their massive win against South Africa, and they will also be happy with the two weeks of rest (maybe one of the reasons for which they only lost this fixture by 17 points last year). However, despite the success in the previous round the team still has its issues, which were visible in the first round in South Africa, when Argentina should have lost by 20+ points if the Boks didn`t miss a ton of kicks at goal.
Starting without three key players in the form of Bertranou, Matera and Figallo will also hurt Argentina a lot. Missing three key players against a team like New Zealand is something which almost no team in the world can afford without drastic consequences. A fair point can be made that these injuries could hurt Argentina more than New Zealand will be affected by the 7 changes they will make themselves – depending on how much Barrett’s rest will impact the All Blacks.
Playing without Beauden Barrett will obviously be a challenge, as he is one of 4 or 5 irreplaceable players in the team, and his impact can not be replicated due to his unique combination of pace, smarts and skills. It is a fact that nobody can quite play like him and impact a game the way he does. But Mo’unga is the best replacement one could hope for, he is in massive form and will be fired up for his first start.
Argentina might be able to dominate the scrum considering all the New Zealand rotation, but that was always an aspect in which they excelled, and New Zealand should still be able to hold its own. As far as the wide game goes, with the exception of Barrett the players selected from 11 to 15 could be the first choice ones anytime. The All Blacks should run havoc when their wide line will see the ball.
Considering that the handicap is pretty accessible here at just 26 points (because of Argentina’s heroics two weeks ago and New Zealand using rotation the line is almost the same one New Zealand was given two weeks ago vs the much stronger Australia), looking at how well the All Blacks are playing, and taking into account Argentina’s 3 big absences, you would expect New Zealand to cover the spread here even with all the changes they will make. The team is still ultra strong, and the players who will come in will be extra motivated to perform.
There will also be a sell out crowd of +21.000 which will be very loud considering that this is the first time New Zealand plays in Nelson. As such, there shouldn`t be any danger of the All Blacks treating the game lightly or giving anything less than their best effort.
Look for the All Blacks to play at full intensity and you really can’t bet against them when the line is just 26 points at home against Argentina. The Pumas could be relatively competitive for 50-60 minutes, but if that is the case expect New Zealand to destroy them in the last 20 minutes or so, a timespan in which the All Blacks can easily score even 4-5 tries if they push the tempo. The bench for New Zealand is magnificent and Argentina almost always falters at the end of matches.
All in all my tip on this clash will be New Zealand to win and cover the 26 point handicap. The line is currently moving up. Prediction: New Zealand – Argentina 48 – 15.