Messam left out for Pumas test despite work rate
Julian Savea, Victor Vito and Brodie Retallick have been recalled for Saturday night's test against Argentina.
The troika, as well as the fit-again Tony Woodcock and Conrad Smith, are among the changes made for the Cake Tin test as the All Blacks seek their third consecutive Rugby Championship win.
Reserve prop Charlie Faumuina, preferred ahead of Ben Franks, will make his test debut if he takes the field.
Despite the All Blacks' 22-0 win against the Wallabies on August 25 being sullied by numerous errors, coach Steve Hansen has resisted a desire to maintain combinations in the hope it improves their performance.
Loosehead prop Woodcock and midfielder Smith were certain to return after recovering from rib and eye injuries respectively. Wyatt Crockett departs the front row, while Smith returns to the rejigged 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.
Wellingtonians 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 work rate in the two tests against the Wallabies was impressive and perhaps Hansen prefers to keep him fresh ahead of the following weekend's test, against the Springboks in Dunedin.
Meanwhile, speculation on whether former All Blacks boss Graham Henry will join Los Pumas' management during the match continues to add spice to this occasion.
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.
"He will be passing on his experience during the week but it also depends on the players you have to work with."
Wyllie, who last visited Argentina in 2009, said the tourists must absorb the lessons from their recent 16-all draw against the Springboks in Mendoza.
"They challenged the South Africans a lot more in that second test with their attack," Wyllie said.
“They just can't afford to sit back against the All Blacks. There is no point in that - they have to give it a go."
During last year's World Cup quarterfinal, which the All Blacks won 33-10, Argentina scored the opening try to flanker Julio Capello, but were undone by Kieran Read and Brad Thorn scoring tries and Piri Weepu kicking seven penalties.
ALL BLACKS Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), 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.
- © Fairfax NZ News