The All Blacks are under enormous pressure to beat an Argentinian side intent on honouring Diego Maradona with another upset win.
So, will normal service resume in Newcastle? Or will Los Pumas be able to repeat their Sydney heroics?
Coach Ian Foster is feeling the strain with some fans already calling for him to be sacked, but he’s not ready to back down and is confident his side will win Saturday night’s test.
“We’ve got our own standards that we want to meet and when we don’t get to that level then clearly that’s going to come down on me and I understand that. But I’ve got a lot of belief in these guys and this group and there’s some areas where learning and growing as a group and making progress, but we’ve got to show that on the park.”
Foster has largely stuck with the team that lost to the Pumas 13 days ago, making just three changes to the starting side.
Prop Nepo Laulala replaces Tyrel Lomax, Scott Barrett takes over from Patrick Tuipulotu at lock and Akira Ioane comes in at blindside for Shannon Frizell.
The backline remains unchanged, with Richie Mo’unga at first-five, Beauden Barrett at fullback and Jordie Barrett and Caleb Clarke on the wings.
Jordie Barrett’s place in the side was in question after some less than standout performances out wide, but Foster is backing the youngest Barrett brother and believes his prodigious boot could come in handy in Newcastle.
“The first three tests that Jordie played he scored three tires and really dealt with the right wing particularly well. I felt it wasn’t his best game when he went to fullback in Brisbane, but we do trust his kicking game and his decision making with his brother at the back.”
The All Blacks are desperate to avoid losing three tests on the trot for the first time since 1998 and hooker Dane Coles says the pain of being in the first New Zealand team to lose to Argentina is providing extra motivation for their last test of the year.
“I’ve been in this team twice when we’ve been the first team to lose to a country and you’ll probably never lose sight of that feeling. It’s probably a scar that will stay with you for the rest of your career.”
To avoid another career low Coles says the All Blacks will need to get on top of the ill discipline that cost them badly in that loss, with the Pumas baiting them into giving away stupid penalties.
“I probably let myself down and gave one of the boys (Pumas players) a slap around the head. They do bring a lot of heat in that department and if they do bring it, you’ve just got to walk away with a big smile on your face and get on with the next task and you can’t retaliate.
Foster said it’s been made crystal clear that any kind of push back will be punished by the referees.
“World Rugby has said that if the retaliation is at a level above what the initial prodding is then the retaliator will get penalised. The problem with that is it just keeps encouraging people to put in little cheap shots and trying to provoke you.”
The South American’s won’t need much provoking to perform, with emotions running high following the death of Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona.
SOURCE – RADIO NZ