All Blacks should cruise past Los Pumas in the Rugby World Cup

10:38 pm on 20 September 2015

OPINION: The opening was looking like a damp squib, with TV match officials bringing Orwellian levels of discipline to proceedings, but Japan's victory over the Springboks this morning has blown the Rugby World Cup apart.

The biggest rugby shock since Marlborough won the Ranfurly Shield from Canterbury has breathed life into the tournament. Now it's time for the champs to get involved.

The mighty All Blacks' Rugby World Cup defence campaign will finally kick off when they go into battle tomorrow morning.

There will be live text commentary here on radionz.co.nz

All Blacks Number 8 Kieran Read runs through a tackle by Argentina's Los Pumas' wing Juan Imhoff during the 2014 Rugby Championship.

All Blacks Number 8 Kieran Read runs through a tackle by Argentina's Los Pumas' wing Juan Imhoff during the 2014 Rugby Championship. Photo: AFP

Their opponents: Los Pumas of Argentina.

A while ago, this would've been an exotic and (somewhat) mysterious match up, but the Argies' involvement in The Rugby Championship for the last few years makes their presence seem more like a deadbeat dad than a long lost brother.

They show up a couple of times a year, phone it in and leave everyone wondering why they bothered at the end of each 80 minutes against the All Blacks.

It hasn't always been this way; they almost pulled off one of the great upsets of all time back in 2001 in Buenos Aires.

Buoyed by a vociferous home crowd and aided by a tired All Black team at the wrong end of their season, the Pumas led 20-17 into injury time.

Unfortunately, the legendary Felipe Contepomi did probably the worst clearing kick ever, resulting in the only reason why anyone remembers that Ben Blair was an All Black.

This result unfortunately meant that the All Blacks have taken the prospect of playing them far more seriously, so ever since Los Pumas haven't even come close to victory and seem more than content to just try and keep the score down.

Wembley Stadium is the venue for this match, while it's the home of English football it's not actually the first time the All Blacks have played there.

Back in 1997 (incidentally the same year they put over 150 points past the Pumas in two tests) they played Wales there, in a match notable for two moments of incredible self-indulgence: a meaningless Zinzan Brooke dropped goal and tactical substitution appearance by a clearly injured Sean Fitzpatrick (both men have gone on to become noted Northern Hemisphere rugby apologists).

The stadium is capable of holding 90,000 and apparently there won't be many empty seats.

Enough about the old days. This game should be pretty tight for the first half as the All Blacks get back into rugby after a decent month off.

Ma'a Nonu and Richie McCaw facing up against The Pumas at the 2011 World Cup.

Ma'a Nonu and Richie McCaw facing up against The Pumas at the 2011 World Cup. Photo: AFP

Players to watch

Dan Carter should get a few shots at goal to build up the points total before hopefully the game opens up. If that's the case, the All Blacks should be able to give the ball a bit of air. Nonu and Smith will do plenty of damage in the midfield while Aaron Smith will most likely put up plenty of box kicks for the likes of Ben Smith to contest.

Nicolas Sanchez gets a start at first five for the Pumas despite the fact that his effort against the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship being described as 'bottom of the barrel' would be giving barrels a bad name. Juan Imhoff bagged himself a hat trick against the Springboks recently, if he can get some ball in hand he could be a threat.

Prediction

This will be a regulation win for the All Blacks. They'll be aiming to keep the Pumas scoring to multiples of three, work on defending lineout drives and getting Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea involved as often as possible. It won't be a 50-point hiding; the Pumas can tackle, but the margin should be comfortable enough to earn the term ''solid start''.

Predicted score: 34-9 to the All Blacks

Agustin Creevy of Argentina scores a try against the All Blacks from a rolling maul with help from Martin Landajo, July, 2015.

Agustin Creevy of Argentina scores a try against the All Blacks from a rolling maul with help from Martin Landajo, July, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

How they line up

Pumas: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martin Hernandez, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza Bench: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino

All Blacks: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock Bench: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams

Wembley Stadium, London

Monday, 21st September (NZT)

3:45am kickoff

The Benchwarmer's Comment logo

Jamie 'The Benchwarmer' Wall grew up in Wellington and enjoyed a stunningly mediocre rugby career in which the sole highlight was a seat on the bench for his club's premier side. He's enjoyed far more success spouting his viewpoints on the game to anyone who'll care to listen.

The Benchwarmer's Comment will run throughout the World Cup on radionz.co.nz

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