August 27, 2012
AUCKLAND: The All Blacks are preparing for the traditional physical battle up front against Argentina when the Rugby Championship resumes in a fortnight.
New Zealand sit on top of the table as the only team with a 100 per cent record at the end of two rounds, after completing the double over the Wallabies with a 22-0 victory in a contest played at quick tempo in Auckland on Saturday night.
The Pumas' surprise 16-16 draw with South Africa in Mendoza hours later was, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said, ''a very interesting result'' and a good one for the Argentinians, who he believed were unlucky not to win.
What the match showed him is to expect the Pumas to continue with their characteristic game plan of looking to dominate in the forwards. Argentina controlled long stages of the match against the Springboks through superb commitment in the tackle and at the breakdown.
''It's going to be real physical up front,'' Hansen said yesterday. ''They will play that bash game that they played last night. I can't imagine them wanting to play an expansive game.
''They are more comfortable using their forwards and that's what we'll expect, but I guess we'll have to plan for the other as well.''
The four-nation tournament takes a week's break before resuming on September 8 with New Zealand hosting Argentina in Wellington, and Australia and South Africa facing off in Perth.
The only All Blacks injury of note out of their victory at Eden Park was second-rower Luke Romano's bang on the shoulder.
Hansen said it would be a couple of days before the extent of the problem was known, but the early signs were that it might take Romano only a week or so to get over it.
He said centre Conrad Smith and prop Tony Woodcock were on target to recover from eye and rib injuries respectively and be in line for selection against the Pumas.
A number of the All Blacks squad are being released to play in the ITM Cup next week, but Smith, who underwent surgery for a detached retina after the Super Rugby season, is not among them.
''The timetable is such that his first game available will be for us,'' Hansen said. ''We're confident in his fitness. He's proven before that he can come straight back in and do the job.''