Forward planning gets the ABs ready for Pumas

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 15:07 04/09/2014
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MONSTER PACK: Argentina's forward pack proved more than up to the task against the Springboks.

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Twenty-two thousand fans might twist their necks towards the sky, but All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read is more likely to glare at Argentina's forward pack before Saturday night's test in Napier.

While southerlies and rain are forecast, Hawke's Bay rugby supporters will hope the weather is clear to allow the All Blacks to unleash their backline at McLean Park.

Read knows the New Zealanders cannot do anything about the weather but can still rip the rug out from under the Pumas, and that starts with challenging the visitors' celebrated scrum.

When All Blacks scrum coach Mike Cron watched the Pumas repeatedly demolish the South Africans' scrum in their two recent encounters, he would have wasted little time in mapping out some training drills.

"We have pretty much got two packs working against each other at training nowadays with the squad we have got," Read said when quizzed on how the All Blacks can ensure they don't fold like the Springboks pack.

"We have got eight on eight and working on different aspects of that.

"You do different things, too, and you perhaps take away the hit and just load it against each other.

"Working hard on individual or three-on-three things improves your whole scrum as well."

Argentina have not won a Rugby Championship match since the southern hemisphere competition was extended to include them in 2012.

They went close to topping their best result of a solitary draw when they met South Africa in Salta on August 24 but were run down in the second half as Boks coach Heyneke Meyer emptied his bench. South Africa won 33-31.

Despite former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry no longer being involved with coaching Argentina, the Pumas remain determined to play expansively.

Although the Pumas are expected to use their scrum to win penalties by attempting to hold the ball in the set piece for long periods, Read said they were still prepared to be innovative.

"They appear to have changed their structures quite a bit since last year and really bought into playing an open game, so that mirrors itself against what we do," he said.

"It should be a fairly interesting game when we match up on Saturday."

Left wing Julian Savea said the Pumas had the ability to expose teams by trying to cause chaos with their kicking game.

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"There is a variety of kicks that they do," he said.

"They kick pretty much all along the backline; left footers and right footers.

"We just have to do as much as we can to prepare for that and make sure there are no surprises."

Even if the weather is wet, the All Blacks should have learnt some lessons from the 12-all draw with the Wallabies in the rain in Sydney last month.

Attacking the high ball and not firing long passes will be crucial, and Savea will relish the chance to steam into open space.

"I know they will kick a lot more this week, so we are going to expect that," he said.

"I love the ball being kicked to us because it gives us an opportunity to counter-attack and hopefully score tries.

"I do not like the word 'patience' because as a team we do not want to wait for them to do things. We want to take it to them and see what we can do."

- Stuff

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