KEO News Wire

Williams returns as Hansen rings the changes for All Blacks

Sonny Bill Williams is included in a much-changed New Zealand side to face Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

The centre is one of six new faces in the XV as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen freshens up a side that surprisingly lost at home to South Africa in Wellington last time out.

Williams – who is set to make his first appearance in this year’s tournament after overcoming a bout of tonsillitis – partners Ryan Crotty in the centres, while TJ Perenara starts his 50th Test at scrum-half as Aaron Smith drops to the bench.

Ben Smith moves to full-back to replace Jordie Barrett, who is left out of the matchday squad, so Waisake Naholo comes in on the wing.

In the pack, Ofa Tuungafasi takes over from the rested Owen Franks at tighthead prop and Shannon Frizell replaces the injured Liam Squire in a back row that sees Luke Whitelock start at number eight in the absence of captain Kieran Read.

Damian McKenzie has returned home due to a family bereavement but, along with skipper Read, who did not travel to Argentina, he will fly out to join the squad in South Africa ahead of the Test at Loftus Versfeld on October 6.

New Zealand remain on course to defend their Rugby Championship title, with a bonus-point win in Buenos Aires this weekend enough to clinch top spot with a game to spare, but Hansen expects to see a backlash after the world champions slipped up against the Springboks.

“All Blacks are well known for coming back reasonably strongly after a defeat,” Hansen said in a statement.

“They don’t experience a lot of them, or particularly this group haven’t anyway, and we had a really good session on Monday off the park and a lot of the lessons were talked about.

“The week so far on the training park seems to be showing us that they’ve gone up to another gear and [we’re] really looking forward to Saturday because it’s going to be a massive challenge.”

Argentina make two changes to their starting line-up, with Ramiro Herrera coming in at prop, while Bautista Ezcurra replaces the injured Ramiro Moyano (rib).

Ezcurra will partner Jeronimo de la Fuente at centre, with Matias Moroni moving to the wing.


New Zealand: Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Karl Tu’inukuafe, Codie Taylor, Ofa Tuungafasi, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane, Luke Whitelock.

Replacements: Nathan Harris, Tim Perry, Angus Ta’avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Anton Lienert-Brown.

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Bautista Delguy, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Bautista Ezcurra, Matias Moroni, Nicolas Sanchez, Gonzalo Bertranou; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy, Ramiro Herrera, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Javier Ortega Desio.

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Tomas Cubelli, Matias Orlando, Sebastian Cancelliere. News wire is powered by opta

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