But familiarity with the All Blacks from playing them twice a year has bred in the Pumas belief that they are not far behind the world champions. Argentina’s World Cup record has shown a steady trajectory of improvement, and their prescient, aggressive play has made them one to watch for this tournament.
Wembley was aflutter, and the sunshine at kickoff had made way for grey clouds, matching New Zealand’s mood.
The All Blacks came out fighting in the second half however, and well-worked tries from substitute flanker Sam Cane and scrum-half Aaron Smith, combined with Dan Carter’s boot, saw the holders come through their most testing pool match relatively unscathed. “Captaincy is something that over the last couple of years I’ve grown more comfortable with”.
“It was one of those things that as soon as that happens, you wish you hadn’t”, the All Blacks captain said after the match.
“It’s an overwhelming thing coming into the All Blacks and special players sometimes don’t make it. Sitting back and watching him – he had mental fortitude to cope with it pretty quickly and he thrived in the environment”.
In their previous 21 meetings, Argentina have failed to beat New Zealand.
He’s not earmarked as the next first choice captain after the talismanic Richie McCaw finally retires but he will be the one after that in coach Steve Hansen’s vision which requires constant forward planning.
Hansen hailed his bench for injecting energy and urgency in the second half as the All Blacks wore down their combative opponents after trailing for 56 minutes at Wembley Stadium.
Few Kiwis could argue Barnes was wrong to sin bin first Richie McCaw – for tripping Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe – and next Conrad Smith – for hands in the ruck – temporarily reducing the All Blacks to 13 players.
The All Blacks looked vulnerable, as they lost the plot in the face of a fiercely ambitious Argentina side unimpressed by the famous jersey and famous faces.
“We knew before the game the referee’s expectations”, added the 33-year-old. “If we can put up a great performance, we can take a lot of confidence away from that”. His speed was a constant problem for Argentina throughout the game.
The Argentines kept pushing and were rewarded with a try after some excellent picking and driving, Guido Petti getting over the line but injuring himself in the process.
GALARZA CITED. Lock Mariano Galarza, a replacement in Sunday’s 26-16 loss to New Zealand, has been cited for alleged foul play, Rugby World Cup organizers said yesterday.
Hansen has taken the liberty of resting most of his first-choice players for Thursday’s Pool C match between the top and bottom ranked sides at London’s Olympic Stadium, but said New Zealand were not taking it easy.