Carter out of revamped All Blacks

by Staff Writer

Injury to champion five eighth Dan Carter forced coach Steve Hansen into a sixth change to the All Blacks team for an expected physical Rugby Championship clash with Argentina on Saturday.

Hansen had already rung the changes to the unbeaten world champions on Thursday when Carter, the world's leading points scorer, was ruled out with a calf strain and replaced by Aaron Cruden for the Wellington Test.

Novice international locks Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano, with only eight Tests between them, will fill the middle row against the renowned scrummagers from South America and Victor Vito replaces Liam Messam as blindside flanker.

As expected, veteran World Cup winners prop Tony Woodcock and centre Conrad Smith slot back into the starting line-up after recovering from injury and Julian Savea wins his third cap on the left wing in place of Hosea Gear.

Prop Charlie Faumuina is set to make his All Blacks debut if he comes off the bench where he replaces Ben Franks.

Hansen said Carter had been carrying a tight left calf in training during the week but had hoped to recover.

It will be the 23-year-old Cruden's 13th Test but just his fifth start as he continues to benefit from injuries.

Cruden has made giant strides with his game this season, steering the Chiefs to the Super Rugby title, and should prove a capable replacement at five eighth and goal kicker.

With Cruden elevated to number 10, Beauden Barrett, who made his Test debut against Ireland in June, has been called on to the bench.

Hansen said there was room for improvement after New Zealand's last outing, a 22-0 win over arch-rivals Australia which secured the Bledisloe Cup for a 10th straight year.

"We have been working on constantly improving our game and that has again been our focus this week," said Hansen.

"We were happy with our intensity and attitude in the last Test against Australia, but not so happy with our execution, when we didn't get the decision-making process right on occasions."

New Zealand top the Rugby Championship table after two wins over Australia and have not lost against Argentina in 14 Tests since 1985, most recently posting a 33-10 win in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

But the Pumas, who now have Henry in their coaching line-up, will have gained confidence from a 16-16 draw against South Africa late last month and Hansen said he was under no illusions about how tough Argentina would be.

"It is going to be very physical, especially up front, where they are traditionally very strong," he said.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Victor Vito; Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano; Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.

Res: Andrew Hore, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith

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