Savea, Vito get chance to impress for All Blacks
Wellington pair Julian Savea and Victor Vito, and lock Brodie Retallick, have been recalled for Saturday night's test against Argentina.
The trio, along with the fit-again Tony Woodcock and Conrad Smith, are among the changes made for the Westpac Stadium test as the All Blacks seek their third successive Rugby Championship win. And if reserve prop Charlie Faumuina, preferred ahead of Ben Franks, takes the field he will make his test debut.
Despite the All Blacks' 22-0 win against the Wallabies on August 25 being sullied by numerous errors, coach Steve Hansen resisted a desire to maintain combinations in the hope it improves their performance.
Prop Woodcock and midfielder Smith were certain to return after recovering from respective rib and eye injuries. Wyatt Crockett departs the front row, while Smith returns to the midfield after Sonny Bill Williams' exit.
The remaining three selections were not so predictable.
Savea replaces left wing Hosea Gear, blindside flanker Vito takes over from Liam Messam and lock Retallick is preferred ahead of Sam Whitelock.
Vito and Savea have not started since the first and second tests against Ireland in June; the former because of a knee injury, while the latter was replaced by Gear for the third test in Hamilton.
Messam's omission is the most surprising. While Gear struggled to make an impact in the recent Bledisloe Cup match and Whitelock is yet to recapture last year's form, Messam has been a consistent performer.
The Waikato No 6's workrate in the two tests against the Wallabies was impressive. Perhaps Hansen prefers to keep him fresh ahead of next weekend's test against the Springboks in Dunedin.
Meanwhile, speculation continues as to whether former All Blacks boss Graham Henry will join Los Pumas' management during the match.
Former All Blacks coach Alex Wyllie, who took charge of Argentina between 1996 and 1999, believed Henry's presence in the opposition coach's box was unlikely to concern the All Blacks.
“You can change the odd thing during the game but it is not as if he can do much about technique and that sort of thing."
Wyllie said the tourists must absorb the lessons from their recent 16-16 draw against the Springboks in Mendoza.
“They challenged the South Africans a lot more in that test," Wyllie said. “They can't afford to sit back against the All Blacks. There is no point in that - they have to give it a go."
ALL BLACKS: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Victor Vito, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Andrew Hore, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.
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- The Dominion Post
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