All Blacks seek another Ioane blockbuster against Pumas

Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) –


The All Blacks are looking for another inspirational performance from Akira Ioane when they face a determined Argentina in the Rugby Championship Sunday on the Gold Coast.

Argentina upset the All Blacks for the first time last year and may believe they can do it again, but they don't have an Ioane and that could be a key difference according to stand-in All Blacks captain Brodie Retallick.

The All Blacks misread the Argentines last year and were beaten by Los Pumas for the first time -- a 25-15 scoreline in Sydney that has both sides fired up for this match.

The Pumas have strict orders from coach Mario Ledesma to stifle the free-flowing All Blacks game and dictate the pace with their forward power.

"The objectives for this Sunday are to control the game in the things that we can control, impose the things that we can impose, and obviously that begins with obtaining possession," Ledesma said.

"We have to play the game we want to play."

That was their winning formula last year, and Retallick said the All Blacks, who bounced back from last year's loss with a 38-0 victory two weeks later, will be ready for them this time.

"They've got every right to believe that they can beat us, anyone can," said Retallick, the All Blacks fourth captain this year with Ardie Savea sidelined by a head knock while Sam Whitelock and Aaron Smith are on paternity leave.

The All Blacks became frustrated and sidetracked, he said, as the Pumas "played off-the-ball a little bit" last year.

"There's been a real focus on us this week to make sure we get our skill sets right and accurate in our roles and hopefully negate that."

- 'Another aspect' -

In the opening two rounds of the Rugby Championship, Argentina managed only one try when beaten twice by South Africa while the All Blacks, with their high-octane approach, scored 14 in back-to-back wins over Australia.

Retallick said the importance of Ioane should not be under-estimated, with the powerful Auckland Blues flanker in sensational form.

In the second Test against the Wallabies he made 88 metres, beat nine defenders, made eight tackles and set up two tries.

"A lot of our tries come from unstructured rugby at the moment," Retallick said.

"And that comes down to one-on-ones and when you've got a guy like Akira or a loose forward outside you who can create that space it's another aspect that teams have to think about defensively.

Marcos Kremer (centre) celebrates victory with teammates after Argentina's famous win over New Zealand in November last year
Marcos Kremer (centre) celebrates victory with teammates after Argentina's famous win over New Zealand in November last year David Gray AFP

"It does open up opportunities in other spots which is great for us."

The All Blacks have made six changes for the match while retaining fullback Jordie Barrett after the competition judiciary ruled there was no need for further penalties following his red card last week.

Argentina have made seven changes which includes the return of 32-year-old playmaker Nicolas Sanchez, who will become their most-capped player when he runs out for his 90th Test.

Captain Julian Montoya said they have spent the past two weeks "being very self-critical" and working on discipline after conceding 34 penalties in their two Tests against South Africa.