Argentina prepare for All Blacks clash

Argentina coach Michael Cheika unveiled a strengthened defense on Thursday, making three starting changes for the Pumas squad to face New Zealand at the Rugby Championship Test in Christchurch on Saturday.

Cheika also overhauled the bench as Argentina look to retain the winning formula after a 48-17 demolition of Australia in San Juan 12 days ago.

All three changes to the starting lineup have been implemented, with Cheika opting to leave behind a handful of experienced players as the Pumas head to New Zealand for the two-Test assignment.

Veteran full-backs Juan Imhoff and Jeronimo de la Fuente are both missing from the side that beat the Wallabies, along with starting prop Francisco Gomez Kodela.

Inexperienced Lucio Cinti comes on the left wing for Imhoff while 60 Tests outside full-back Matias Moroni is restored in place of the injured De la Fuente, reuniting with his longtime midfield colleague Matias Orlando.

Cinti and Moroni are both strong backs, which Cheika said would be important in countering the All Blacks midfield.

“New Zealand have a big defense so we have some big players there to maybe counter that,” he said on Thursday. “This team is a combination of what we saw in the last game and the chance to see a few different things.

“It’s a good competition at the moment, there are a lot of difficulties [selection] duels and there will be a lot of new energy from the finishing team.

Up front, Joel Sclavi starts at right support while Cheika has changed the five forwards on his bench.

Veteran frontline strikers Augustin Creevy and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro were among the substitutes against Australia but were not chosen for a tour, instead returning to their clubs in Europe.

Argentina – 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez Samso, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Joel Sclavi, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Subs: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Santiago Grondona, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Santiago Cordero.

© Agence France-Presse

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