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The Rugby Championship This weekend saw Round 2 of The Rugby Championship.

In johannesburg, South Africa it was heart-break for the Springboks again, 2nd week in a row, this time losing in the dying minutes against a better conditiond and fitter All Blacks side, by 20 / 27, with All Blacks capatin Richie McCaw doing the damage to snatch the lead from the South Africans with only 6 minutes to go in the match.

In Mendoza, Argentinia, the Wallabies led 8 / 6 at halftime before tuning in all the screws and beating Los Pumas comfortably by 34 / 9, also earning their bonus point for tries in the process.

As a result of the Round 2 results, the All Blacks and Wallabies are joint leaders of The Rugby Championship Log, with 2 wins apiece, whereas the Springboks and Los Pumas are still winless in the Competition, with the Springboks on a paltry 2 Log points and Los Pumas still not out of the starting gates, on 0 Log Points.

In 2015 there is of course only 3 Rounds in total, in the abbreviated version of the prime Southern Hemisphere international competition due to this year being a Rugby World Cup year. In this shortened version of the competition, where in stead of the normal double Round of matches by every side against the other sides, there is only a single Round of matches by every side against each of the other nations.

Round 3 is only in a fortnight, where the focus will be on the Bledisloe clash between the Wallabies and All Blacks for this year’s overall title.

The Springboks dominated most of the 1st half but at the break the scores were still tied on 10 / 10 and later on 17 / 17 before South Africa took a slender 20 / 17 lead and held that lead untill 6 minutes from time, whereafter the All Blacks showed their class and superior fitness and better bench selections to add 10 further points and running out 7-point winners.

All is not lost for the Springboks and one feels that they showed some quality rugby 2 weeks in a row, but they will surely now realize that their overall conditioning, fitness as well as the impact their bench is supposed to have in the vital Rugby World Cup during September and October still need a massive amount of work if they are to stand a proper chance of winning the world showpiece in 2015.

The All Blacks once again appear to be massive favourites to not only win theis year’s Rugby Championship but to also go on to clinch the Rugby World Cup title in October.

Argentina seem to be dogged by the same “Illness” that the Springboks are suffering from, as they also seem incapable of ending games strong enough and also tend to kick tactically poorly, which invariably results in scores against them in the latter stages of games when defences are no longer as tight as in the beginning of matches.

The Wallabies are building up nicely towards the Rugby World Cup, having first narrowly dispatched the Springboks week before last and now comforably beating Los Pumas on the weekend. They managed to score 2 quick-fire tries towards the end of the clash in Argentina, first by Tevita Kuridrani and then barely 3 minutes later one by Adam Ashley-Cooper (to earn them the bonus point for tries) to hammer the nails in properly against the Pumas.

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Brodie Retallick

Brodie Retallick

Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

New Zealand’s come-from-behind win over South Africa at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday has come at a price.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, in his 140th appearance for his country, produced the match-winning try with a pre-planned lineout move 6 minutes from time – as they came back from trailing by 7 points twice.

The All Black flank won a lineout close to the Springboks’ line and brushed off the challenge of scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar to score a try that will go a long way towards New Zealand claiming The Rugby Championship title.

However, injuries to key players will have cast a cloud over the team’s celebrations.

Coach Steve Hansen confirmed that centre Ma’a Nonu has damaged his rotator cuff in his shoulder.

“He will have scans done when he gets home (next week) to determine the extent of the injury,” Hansen told a post-match media briefing.

The other big concern is lock Brodie Retallick, who took to the field despite injuring his ankle during warm up.

Hansen said the lock “showed his character” to play through the match with the injury.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika believes New Zealand are way ahead of their closest rivals as they prepare for The Rugby Championship decider.

The Wallabies and All Blacks are locked on 9 points apiece in the Log Table after picking up 2 wins from their respective 2 games so far in the tournament.

And it seems the mind games have already begun ahead of the 8 August clash in Sydney, with Cheika praising how New Zealand are playing at the moment.

“This year it’s a little bit closer, but it’s very obvious that New Zealand are the best team in the world, and I mean by a long way at this stage,” the coach told Australian media after their impressive bonus-point win over Los Pumas.

“To beat South Africa like they did, I think they did it pretty easy in the end.

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Andrew Hore

Andrew Hore

Retired All Black Andrew Hore is facing a firearms charge, for the 2nd time.

The 36-year-old Hore will appear in the Alexandra District Court on Tuesday – where he will be charged with supplying a firearm to a non-licensed holder following an accident on the 1st weekend of duck shooting season.

A police spokesman said the charge was laid following an incident on 2 May at Patearoa when a 23-year-old was shot in the elbow.

A number of people had been driving in an all-terrain vehicle when as the ATV went over a rise, the victim fell off, along with 2 firearms.

“As the firearms hit the ground, 1 discharged and shot the man in the elbow.”

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Springboks vs All Blacks

We look at the key statistics from yesterday’s game and discuss some of the more telling moments of the match. Statistics are courtesy of Vodacom, opinion is this writer’s own. Where at all possible, blame will be placed squarely at the feet of non-WP players and / or the match officials, pitch conditions and Jan van Riebeeck.

They say you get lies, damn lies and statistics and when you look at the comparisons, it would appear to be a very close game, and indeed it was, with the All Blacks making decisive scoring breaks in injury time in the 1st half as well as the last 10 minutes of the game to sneak the victory. They clearly have higher fitness levels than the Springboks, both physically and mentally and managed to out last as well as out think the Springboks, the try scored by Richie McCaw being a prime example of excellent tactical superiority.

The statistic that is most interesting is the breakdown of meters run. When you analyze which positions made the most meters the following is apparent:

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South AfricaNew ZealandSpringboks (10) 20 / 27 (10) All Blacks (Final Score)

The South African Springboks and New Zealand All Blacks did battle in Round 2 of The Rugby

Championship at Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 12:05 Arg Time,

Sunday 03:05 NZ Time, Sunday 01:05 AEST). This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.

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The Rugby ChampionshipIt is Round 2 of the abbreviated Rugby Championship of 2015 (Only 1 Round of matches against each side in 2015 as opposed to a double Round of matches against all sides – home and away in non Rugby World Cup years).

There are 2 games on Saturday 25 July.

The Action of the Round is kicked off in South Africa, where the Springboks take on the old foe, the All Blacks in Johannesburg and concludes with the late night match between the Argentinian Pumas against the Australian Wallabies in Mendoza.

On Saturday at Emirates Airline Park (Ellis Park) in Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 12:05 Arg Time, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time, Sunday 01:05 AEST) referee Jérôme Garcès is in charge in the Springboks vs All Blacks game.

On Saturday at Estadio Malvinas in Mendoza, at Sunday 00:40 SA Time (19:40 Arg Time, 22:40 GMT, Sunday 08:40 AEST, Sunday 10:40 NZ Time) referee Jaco Peyper of South Africa is in charge of the Pumas vs Wallabies game.

The game between the Springboks and the All Blacks should be a humdinger of note and the result could go either way. Last time these 2 sides met, also at the same venue, the Springboks won by a measly 2 points. Both sides have made some bold selections, with 2 debutants on the All Blacks side and on the Springbok side we see the return of Heinrich Brüssow, who makes his 1st Springbok appearance since November 2011. One cannot help but feel that the All Blacks have ironed out most if not almost all the chinks in their armour, whereas the Springboks still seem to be a work in progress.

The Pumas and the Wallabies have each made 7 changes to their starting line-ups and the question begs whether Los Pumas could repeat their win over the Wallabies of last year in Mendoza. The Wallabies came back very strongly against the Springboks last week, so I quite fancy them for a win against the Pumas… in Argentina.

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The Castle Rugby ChampionshipIn a shortened version of The Rugby Championship, the 2 losers of Round 1 are practically in last chance saloon while victories for Round 1’s winners would set up a winner-takes-all Bledisloe Cup clash in Round 3.

It makes for a must-see weekend of action.

 

South AfricaNew ZealandSpringboks vs All Blacks:

It’s been 6 years since South Africa managed back-to-back wins over New Zealand and Saturday’s clash between the world’s top 2 teams represents an important chance to lay down a marker.

Last year’s last-minute victory for the Springboks in Johannesburg – only their 2nd win over the All Blacks since 2009 – ended a 3-year losing streak against their great rivals.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

All Black coach Steve Hansen has been girding his team for a rolling maul onslaught from South Africa in Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby clash between the old rivals at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Although the Kiwis scored a good driving maul try of their own against Los Pumas in Christchurch last week, the Pumas momentarily got themselves back into the game with 2 of their own in the 2nd half. The look on All Black skipper Richie McCaw’s face told a story after the South Americans easily got over for their 2nd try. In short, he wasn’t happy.

But while that opened up a perception of possible All Black vulnerability to the driving maul, and let’s face it the New Zealanders are so good that opposing teams do need to make the most of even the slightest chink, Hansen made it clear to a press conference in the build-up to the game that he thought it was the laws that were vulnerable, not his team.

“We’re not too bad at the rolling maul ourselves these days,” he quipped. “There were 3 tries scored through driving mauls last week, but is that the game we want?”

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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

The New Zealand All Blacks team to face the Springboks in The Rugby Championship on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park contains 2 Test debutants amongst other changes.

Lock James Broadhurst and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga will line up to make their Test debuts for the All Blacks. Sopoaga comes in for Daniel Carter at flyhalf and Broadhurst takes over from Luke Romano.

In other changes in the starting 15, Dane Coles comes in at hooker, with Liam Messam at blindside flank. In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the starting scrumhalf position, while the world-record midfield combo of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith is back.

As well, with a desire to continue to give Israel Dagg more game time, Ben Smith is named on the right wing.

On the bench, Ben Franks comes in as reserve prop alongside Wyatt Crockett, Codie Taylor retains the reserve hooker jersey, Sam Whitelock is reserve lock, with Victor Vito covering the loose forwards. TJ Perenara is reserve scrumhalf, with Beauden Barrett and Malakai Fekitoa the other backs on the pine.

Broadhurst and Sopoaga will be surrounded by a hugely experienced All Blacks side, with the starting forward pack boasting a total of exactly 500 Test caps, with a further 320 caps in the starting backline and 217 on the bench.

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Kieran Read

Kieran Read

Being taunted by 61 000 fans at Ellis Park (Emirates Airline Park) doesn’t cause Kieran Read much anxiety.

No 8 Read expects the Springboks supporters at Johannesburg to rip into the All Blacks on Saturday (Sunday morning NZ Time), but he gives the impression that they could turn the volume up 10-fold and he still wouldn’t be too fussed.

Read is so in-the-zone during matches that the clatter coming out of the mouths of inhospitable fans doesn’t register as being unfriendly, or otherwise.

“I know the crowd will certainly be baying for our blood,” Read said.

“Once you get on the field, it pretty much becomes WHITE NOISE to be honest, and in some ways they could be screaming for you.

“It’s hard to know exactly what is being said.”

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Carlos Spencer

Carlos Spencer

Could Auckland rugby icon Carlos Spencer be on the verge of making a dramatic return to the Blues as a skills coach under Tana Umaga?

It might seem a longshot but the door could be open according to Blues boss Michael Redman.

Spencer, among the most gifted footballers in New Zealand rugby history, wants to return to New Zealand from South Africa having quit Super Rugby’s Kings franchise which he says owes him substantial wages.

Redman told the Herald the Blues will decide within days whether to appoint a new skills coach, or make the job contestable. If it is the latter, Spencer – who approached the franchise this year – would “absolutely be an option and we would hope and expect he would apply.”

The 39-year-old Spencer is on the lookout for a new job after parting ways with South Africa’s Eastern Province Kings, the apparently financially troubled franchise which returns to the expanded Super Rugby competition next season.

His shock departure from the Kings, revealed yesterday, has cast a further spotlight on issues facing the expanded Super Rugby competition.

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Jamie Joseph

Jamie Joseph

Super Rugby champion coach Jamie Joseph of the Highlanders and New Zealand great Carlos Spencer will take charge of the Barbarians next month when rugby makes its 1st appearance at the former Olympic Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.

Joseph led the Highlanders to their 1st Super Rugby title when they beat the Hurricanes in last month’s final.

His next appointment is to lead the Barbarians, who celebrate their 125th anniversary this year, against Samoa on 29 August. It is the 1st time rugby will be played at the iconic London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic venue.

“It’s a privilege to take charge of the Barbarians who are known the world over for bringing great players together to play entertaining rugby,” said Joseph.

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Malakai Fekitoa

Malakai Fekitoa

Conrad Smith

Conrad Smith

New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have some big selection decisions to make this week, as his team prepares to take on South Africa’s Springboks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Having rested the bulk of the All Blacks who featured in the all-New Zealand Super Rugby Final (between the Hurricanes and Highlanders) in the 1st 2 Tests of the year, he has to decide how many of them will now be unleashed on the Springboks.

Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Victor Vito and James Broadhurst are all keen to get a run against Springboks in their Rugby Championship outing on Saturday.

Probably the most interesting selection would be what combination he chooses to oppose South Africa’s exciting new midfield pairing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende.

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Culum Retallick

Culum Retallick

The Melbourne Rebels have strengthened their squad for the 2016 season with the signing of lock Culum Retallick from the Blues on a 2 year deal.

Retallick has made nearly 50 Super Rugby appearances since debuting for the Chiefs in 2010, also representing the Blues and Highlanders, where he played alongside future Rebels teammates Tamati Ellison and Adam Thomson.

He has also made close to a century of appearances for Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup since debuting as a 23 year old in 2008, and joins on a foreign developing player contract.

Retallick said he was excited about challenging himself professionally, and joining a team he has watched develop in recent years.

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Conrad Smith

Conrad Smith

The All Blacks will be in the firing line when they take on the Springboks in Johannesburg on Saturday.

South Africa suffered a narrow loss to Australia’s Wallabies in their Rugby Championship opener in Brisbane at the weekend and New Zealand expect a backlash from their arch rivals at Emirates Airline Park.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has left Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams out of his 31-man squad to travel to Johannesburg, saying it is important that he tests the mettle of other players in a high-profile Test in front of a sold-out crowd.

“We have to be brave to find out some answers to some questions and what better place to find out some questions about people – it is a heck of a pressure situation, isn’t it, against one of the best teams in the world,” he told Fairfax Media.

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Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi

Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi

The Hurricanes have added another scrumhalf to their roster for 2016, signing promising talent Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

The Rotorua-born 20-year-old has been playing his rugby in Taranaki for the past 2 seasons, and has had a successful year in 2015 as part of both the New Zealand Under 20 World Championship-winning side, followed by selection in the New Zealand Barbarians team.

He was also a major player in his Taranaki club rugby side’s winning season, with his form for New Plymouth Old Boys’ helping to secure him an ITM Cup contract with Taranaki for 2015.

Tahuriorangi described the move to the Hurricanes as a massive opportunity, not only for himself, but his family.

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Adam Thompson

Adam Thompson

The Melbourne Rebels have announced the signing of former Reds and All Blacks back rower, Adam Thomson, for the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Thomson will bring a wealth of experience to Melbourne, having made 83 Super Rugby appearances for the Highlanders and Reds as well as winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks among 31 appearances for his country (29 Tests).

Capable of playing anywhere in the loose forwards, Thomson played alongside compatriot Tamati Ellison for both the Highlanders and All Blacks, while he worked with Rebels’ Assistant Coach Zane Hilton during their time together at Canon Eagles in Japan’s Top League. Thomson is a try-scoring back rower, having crossed 21 times at Super Rugby level.

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Sonny Bill Williams & Dan Carter

Sonny Bill Williams & Dan Carter

Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams will not travel to South Africa for Round 2 of The Rugby Championship next weekend.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named a 31-man squad to travel to Johannesburg for the Test against the Springboks on 25 July with Carter and Williams being rested.

“In deciding on the squad to travel to South Africa, the selectors based their selections on 3 criteria,” explained Hansen.

“Firstly, we have picked experienced players who are well aware of the challenge of playing South Africa at home.

“Secondly, we want to give some other players the opportunity to see how they cope under the extreme pressure of playing South Africa and thirdly, we took into consideration the fact that some players in the squad could do with having a break for various reasons, so they will be staying home to freshen up.”

Hansen feels Carter and Williams deserve a break.

“Normally if we had a squad of 31, both of them would be in it and would be coming,” he said.

“Sonny has got bit of a busy schedule so we will let him have some time at home and DC can have some time at home as well – along with the other guys.”

All players who are remaining in New Zealand will be given individual training programmes to work on and will reassemble with the rest of squad in August and be available for selection for the Bledisloe Cup Tests.

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Kieran Read on the rampage

Kieran Read on the rampage

 

New Zealand kicked off their Rugby Championship campaign with a comfortable 39 / 18 win over Argentina in Christchurch on Friday.

Impressive at scrum time, the All Blacks showed their power in defence and attack in the 1st half, running in 2 tries through Richie McCaw and Ma’a Nonu, allowing them to take an 18 / 6 halftime lead.

Despite 2 2nd-half tries from Agustin Creevy, it was the All Blacks who controlled things, running in 3 more scores through Charles Piutau, Kieran Read and debutant Codie Taylor.

The key to the game was the difference in defence, with New Zealand able to knock back runners all day long, while the Pumas were constantly on the back foot.

With quick ball, they created plenty of opportunities and were never really in danger, giving McCaw and Dan Carter a fitting farewell for their final international games in Christchurch.

Argentina had rested a number of experienced players, putting in faith in the likes of Guido Petti and Facundo Isa, who impressed last November, as well as promising winger Santiago Cordero.

In contrast New Zealand were playing the most experienced side in Test history, despite the absence of the likes of Conrad Smith, Julian Savea and Sam Whitelock. There was an All Black debut for Waisake Naholo, the Highlanders winger who topped the try-scoring charts in Super Rugby this season.

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Rugby-Talk.com LogoSuperBru

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • An abbreviated version of The Rugby Championship 2015 starts on 17 July 2015, so hurry up and do not delay to register for it!
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  • The Rugby World Cup 2015 starts on 18 September 2015, however, there is no provision for Pools for it yet on SuperBru… hang in there, soon we’ll have a Pool for that one too!

As is usual, Rugby-Talk.com’s SuperBru Pools are open for ALL REGISTERED SUBSCRIBERS of Rugby-Talk.com, so if you are not yet registered here on Rugby-Talk.com, do so without delay! It is so easy to register and such fun to discuss rugby here.

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New ZealandArgentinaAll Blacks (18) 39 / 18 (6) Los Pumas (Final Score)

The New Zealand All Blacks and Argentinian Pumas did battle in The Rugby Championship at

AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 04:35 ARG Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.

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The Rugby ChampionshipIt is Round 1 of the abbreviated Rugby Championship of 2015 (Only 1 Round of matches against each side in 2015 as opposed to a double Round of matches against all sides – home and away in non Rugby World Cup years).

There is 1 games on Friday 17 July and 1 game on Saturday 18 July.

The Action of the Round is kicked off in New Zealand, where the All Blacks take on Los Pumas of Argentinia in Christchurch and concludes with the match between the Australian Wallabies against the South African Springboks in Brisbane.

On Friday at AMI Stadium in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 04:35 ARG Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) referee Craig Joubert is in charge in the All Blacks vs Los Pumas game.

On Saturday at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, at 12:05 SA Time (20:05 AEST, 22:05 NZ Time, 07:05 ARG Time, 10:05 GMT) referee Nigel Owens of Wales is in charge of the Wallabies vs Springboks game.

The game between the All Blacks and Los Pumas should only produce 1 result and that is a comfortable win for the All Blacks. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has opted for a very experienced run-on side and replacement bench, whereas Argentinian coach Daniel Hourcade has included a number of inexperienced players in a very experimental Pumas side.

The game between the Wallabies and Springboks is extremely difficult to call but Rugby Championship and Tri-Nations history favours the Wallabies greatly at home in Australia against the Springboks. Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has opted to haul back some big guns, 2 from overseas (Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell) and 2 recent Australian-based Wallabies who missed some of last year’s internationals (Will Genia & Quade Cooper) to bolster his match-day 23. Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has changed just 1 player from the run-on side which demolished the World XV side last weekend, namely Schalk Burger in place of Warren Whiteley at No 8 and has made 4 further changes on the bench.

One would have to flip a coin or be very bold to nominate a winner here, but I suppose the home side goes in with a slight advantage.

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New ZealandArgentinaThe Rugby Championship’s most successful team kicks off against the least successful when New Zealand’s All Blacks host the Argentinian Pumas on Friday.

In fact the teams’ records in the competition almost exactly mirror each other, with the All Blacks having won 16, drawn 1 and lost 1, while Argentina have won 1, drawn 1 and lost 16.

Even their points for and against are remarkably similar, New Zealand having racked up 543 points, 4 fewer than Argentina have conceded, and the Pumas scoring 273, 1 fewer than the All Blacks have let in.

Those numbers show that the All Blacks’ dominance in the competition has been very similar to Argentina’s struggles and it’s hard to see that changing in Christchurch on Friday.

Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade is using the game as an opportunity to test out some young players, while Steve Hansen is more focused on a few old heads proving their form.

That’s not to say the All Black side is completely devoid of new faces, Waisake Naholo will start for the 1st time, while Codie Taylor should also make his debut off the bench.

However it is the form of the likes of Israel Dagg, Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu, which will be of serious interest.

The latter pair should be inked in for the Rugby World Cup squad, despite disappointing seasons for the Blues, but for all Hansen’s protestations, Dagg is surely fighting for a place on the plane to England given the depth of options in the back 3.

In comparison, Hourcade has chosen to rest a number of 1st team regulars, giving Rugby Championship debuts to Facundo Isa, Guido Petti and Santiago Cordero.

The latter has been highly-rated for a while, but has not had many opportunities against top tier opposition. With Manuel Montero ruled out of the Rugby World Cup through injury, this could be Cordero’s chance to shine.

Having said that, Argentina have made it very clear they are solely focused on the World Cup, and it’s hard to imagine them picking up a 1st-ever win over New Zealand.

They did however secure their first Rugby Championship win in their final game of last year’s edition, but the Wallabies at home and the All Blacks away are very different challenges.

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New Zealand Barbarians logo

Maori All BlacksThe Maori All Blacks team to play the New Zealand Barbarians in Auckland on Saturday features 5 new caps.

The new caps include Taranaki’s Sean Wainui in the starting line-up along with Marcel Renata, Joe Edwards, Brad Weber and Codey Rei in the replacements.

Charlie Ngatai will again captain the side after the team’s win over Fiji in Suva last week.

Coach Colin Cooper said he was pleased with how the team had recovered from their trip to Fiji and is confident of another committed performance.

“The team showed true determination and resolve in a challenging contest in Fiji and I am sure they will take that commitment into the match against a strong BaaBaas side,” Cooper said.

“I would love to think we can finish our campaign on a high note and continue the team’s incredible record in a rare performance on home soil, however, we won’t take anything for granted as we are up against a very strong team.

“I am confident it will be a great encounter for the fans with a lot of stake and a number of players on both teams looking to make a case for All Blacks selection.”

The Barbarians were once a regular feature in 1st-class fixtures at Eden Park, but their last big match was in 1985 – losing 31 / 10 to Auckland.

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ArgentinaArgentina head coach, Daniel Hourcade, has confirmed the Pumas team that will tackle New Zealand in Friday’s opener of The Rugby Championship in Christchurch.

The side features 12 changes from the last match against the French Barbarians with just the trio of Guido Pagadizabal Petti, Facundo Isa and Jerónimo De la Fuente retaining their places from the 21 / 9 victory.

Manuel Carizza has been re-called for his 1st match for Argentina since the June 2014 Test against Scotland while Santiago Cordero will line-up for his 1st Rugby Championship match, along with Isa and Petti.

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New ZealandThe All Blacks team to play the Argentinian Pumas in The Rugby Championship-opening match has been named, with exciting winger Waisake Naholo to make his Test debut.

Another new All Black, hooker Codie Taylor, is named on the reserves bench for the clash at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.

24-Year-old Naholo comes in for George Moala in 1 of 6 changes from the match-day 23 that played Samoa last week.

In the forwards, lock Brodie Retallick is back in the starting 15, replacing Samuel Whitelock, with Jeremy Thrush coming in as lock reserve; TJ Perenara is at scrumhalf, with Andy Ellis, who played his 250th 1st-class match last week, moving to the bench; while Ma’a Nonu has been named at centre in his 95th Test, and Ryan Crotty moving to the bench. Taylor replaces Hikawera Elliot as reserve hooker and the only other change in the reserves sees loose forward Liam Messam come in for Matt Todd.

It’s another hugely experienced All Blacks team for the Rugby Championship opener, with prop Tony Woodcock to make his 100th Test start in his outstanding career. The match-day 23 boasts 1068 caps worth of experience and an average age of 28 years.

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Andrew Strawbridge

Andrew Strawbridge

Waikato Chiefs assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge has woken up and is communicating with his family but remains in a serious condition in hospital, the Super Rugby team said on Thursday.

Strawbridge, who is also a technical advisor to the Samoa national rugby team, was admitted to an Apia hospital last week with an infection in his right eye after taking ill on a flight from New Zealand before his condition “deteriorated rapidly”.

He arrived back in New Zealand in an air ambulance last Friday and was taken to Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, where he had been listed as being in a critical but stable condition since his arrival.

“Andrew Strawbridge is awake and in a serious, stable condition in the Waikato Hospital Intensive Care Unit,” the Chiefs said in a statement.

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Super Rugby trophyFollowing a massive street parade on Monday the Highlanders will take the Super Rugby Trophy to their support base over the next few weeks.

In conjunction with their community partner PlaceMakers the trophy, which weighs and impressive 28kg, will be taken to various centres throughout the Highlanders’ region to provide photo opportunities for the fans.

Highlanders’ general manager Roger Clark said, “At the game on Saturday and at the parade on Monday, so many people, young and old, wanted photos with the cup and it just wasn’t possible to give everyone an opportunity.

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FijiMaori All BlacksAfter trailing in the opening half, the Maori All Blacks came back to defeat an impressive Fijian team 27 / 26 at ANZ Stadium in Suva.

It was the side’s 305th victory in their 437th match against all opposition, and 20th victory against Fiji in 29 clashes against the Pacific Islanders.

The Maori All Blacks began pre-match proceedings with their traditional Haka, which was followed within seconds by the Fijian Cibi Tau.

The healthy crowd in Suva began to hum with the challenges of both teams being laid down – one had the feeling that wet and blustery conditions were not going to effect the ebb and flow of this one.

As it was between the World Champions and Samoa earlier this week, the Fijians came out with some serious intent, and Kini Murimurivalu gave the hosts the ideal start when, despite the efforts of Damian McKenzie, opened the scoring in the corner.

A few minutes of uncertainty from the Maori All Blacks was put aside as they eased into proceedings and managed to put hands on the ball, but despite this could not penetrate a rushing Fijian defence.

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New Zealand Barbarians logo

New Zealand Barbarians logo

The New Zealand Barbarians have named a strong squad to face the Maori All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday 18 July.

The clash will be the 1st between the 2 teams since the 2010 Maori Centenary Series, when the Maori All Blacks defeated the Barbarians 37 / 31 in an entertaining affair in Whangarei.

The Barbarians side contains George Moala and Tom Taylor, who were both in Samoa with the All Blacks, while All Blacks squad member Cory Jane makes his long-awaited comeback from injury.

Other features of the squad are the selection of 7 players who were involved in last week’s Super Rugby final, along with former All Blacks James Parsons, Luke Whitelock and Dominic Bird and 2 out of the World Rugby Under 20 championship New Zealand team – Auckland loose forward Blake Gibson and Taranaki halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

Injury to Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea prevented his selection. The Barbarians will be coached by Highlanders assistant coach Scott McLeod, along with Hawke’s Bay’s Craig Philpott and Auckland’s Paul Feeney.

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British & Irish LionsThe New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) have revealed a packed 10-match programme for the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour, including 3 Tests between the Lions and All Blacks.

In addition to the internationals, the Lions will play all 5 of New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams, the Maori All Blacks and a composite Provincial XV.

NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew said the tour was set to generate more demand than the Lions’ last trip in 2005, when 20 000 travelling fans created a boisterous atmosphere and injected an estimated NZ$ 135 million (US$ 90 million) into the economy.

“The series in New Zealand will be a huge occasion, featuring the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and providing almost 6 weeks of incredible rugby,” he said.

The Lions tour every 4 years, with the event rotated between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, where last time out they overcame the Wallabies 2 / 1 in 2013.

They lost 0 / 3 when last in New Zealand in 2005, with the defining moment a spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll early in the 1st Test that forced the Irishman out of the tour.

Overall, New Zealand have won 27 Tests and the Lions 6 since the tours began in 1888, with the visitors achieving their only series win in 1971.

NZRU also revealed it will host Wales in June next year for a 3-Test series against the All Blacks.

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Marty McKenzie

Marty McKenzie

The Crusaders have signed Chiefs flyhalf Marty McKenzie to fill the gap left by the departing Dan Carter, Colin Slade and Tom Taylor.

McKenzie will compete with Ben Volavola and Richie Mo’unga, who have also signed with the franchise ahead of the 2016 season.

Maori All Black McKenzie will move south from the Chiefs, returning to the city where he spent the final 2 years of secondary school. Born and raised in Southland, McKenzie moved from Gore High School to Christchurch’s Christ’s College for his final school years playing in their 1st XV for both seasons.

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