Friday, September 07, 2012

All Blacks unsure of Pumas' intentions
September 6, 2012
Daniel Gilhooly

WELLINGTON: The All Blacks are unconvinced about Argentina's commitment to attack in Saturday's Rugby Championship Test.

A tight, tough style was the Pumas' default setting in their two opening Tests against the Springboks - a loss in Cape Town and draw in Mendoza.

Most pundits anticipate they will stick with the same tight, driving and kicking game against New Zealand in Wellington.

But the appearance of Argentina coaching consultant Graham Henry at training and the restoration of the classy Juan Martin Hernandez at five-eighth casts uncertainty over their style.

Hernandez added fuel to the fire when asked what role former All Blacks coach Henry was playing this week.

''In past years we've been good at defending so his focus is on attack,'' he said. ''Giving the advice to improve our decisions. To do a simple game but to execute it better than before.''

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster admitted it was not easy to plan for opponents they do not play often.

The last meeting was a torrid World Cup quarter-final when New Zealand pulled away late to win by 23 points.

''Those who played them speak very highly of how hard it was to break them down,'' Foster said.

''If you look back at the World Cup last year and then again this year, they're a very strong defensive team. Their backs are certainly very clued up in that area.

''On attack, they've probably got a limited formula but they'll still try to use the ball if we give them too many soft opportunities.''

Following a lacklustre All Blacks counter-attacking game against the Wallabies in Auckland, there is every indication wing Hosea Gear will make way for Hurricanes powerhouse Julian Savea when the team is announced today.

Also, centre Conrad Smith replaces Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield, with Ma'a Nonu returning to the No.12 jersey he hasn't worn since the World Cup.

Foster said there were enough wise heads to know how to repair a high error count in attack during the 22-0 defeat of Australia.

''We're creating a lot of opportunities, but we're a bit too excited or a bit too intense at times to take them,'' he said. ''You've got to focus on the small details of your game and try not to panic too much.''

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