Vaea Fifita and Matt Todd could prove a dynamic All Blacks loose forward duo

Vaea Fifita is back to terrorise the Pumas, this time on their home turf.
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Vaea Fifita is back to terrorise the Pumas, this time on their home turf.

Look out Argentina, he's back.

Not that All Blacks flanker Vaea Fifita has probably left the heads of one or two Pumas. You imagine they still wake in the night with visions of him hurtling toward or over or around them.

Left out of the New Zealand team that beat South Africa 57-0, the devastating blindside flanker will form a well-balanced loose trio with fetcher Matt Todd and skipper Kieran Read when they meet Argentina at Estadio Jose Amalfitani on Sunday morning (NZT).

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has nominated flanker Matt Todd as one of his favourite players.
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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has nominated flanker Matt Todd as one of his favourite players.

Fifita was more conspicuous on the left edge of attack, than the breakdowns, as the All Blacks battled to beat the Pumas 39-22 in their last meeting. Todd excels in that area, which you assume could give Fifita more licence to roam.

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"Vaea will have to do his job and at times he's got to go to the breakdowns; he ran past a couple last time he played," All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said.

"So he's aware of that and part of that's just not being sure what his role is and that comes with more game time. And he's a physical man, Vaea, so you want him to be in those physical moments, because the opposition become aware of who you are and what you are. Just think Jerry Collins."

Hansen talked Fifita up a treat before these teams played in New Plymouth, referencing noted hard men such as Collins then too. Fifita lived up to the billing, but there will be games or instances when he doesn't.

"You're never the finished article. It takes some time to learn about international rugby and he's at the infancy of what should be a very good career, with the talent that he's got and he's got to work ethic to back that up.

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"As he learns and gets more comfortable in his own skin, in this environment and on the playing field, he'll just get better and better."

Todd's a little different. At 29, he's been an All Black since 2013 but accumulated just eight caps in that time. One of those players who fans become quite devoted to or passionate about, the Crusader has a friend in high All Blacks places too.

"He's one of my favourite players," said Hansen.

That's partly because he's taken his lumps and accepted that people such as Richie McCaw and Sam Cane and Ardie Savea were better than him. Todd's only contracted until the end of the 2018 season, though, so at some point he might put himself first.

For now, he's a man Hansen has every confidence in.

"He could have been bitter or he could have got better and I think what he's done is he gets better every time he goes away and there's a real sense of pride when he comes back.

"He just gets on with his work, he's comfortable in the environment, he's been in and out of here enough to know we trust him and this time last year I think he was player of the day against the South Africans in Jo'burg, so we're expecting him to play well and he'll expect himself to play well so that's even better."

Savea started the last test against Argentina but Hansen said he favoured his impact off the bench for this match.

 

 - Stuff

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