Julian Savea scored a stellar try in last year’s Test match against Argentina in Napier.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw wasn’t required to fire some verbal shots at his men after their sloppy display in Apia last week.
The main aim will be to lift the Apia benchmark and to that end, Smith says, what will be on view in Christchurch will be the type of rugby both teams will take to the World Cup.
Championship matches will be played at full pace, there is a lot at stake, but some familiar faces may be withdrawn from the firing line, giving others the chance to stake a claim for the World Cup.
As outsiders, albeit improving all the time, the Pumas and their coach Daniel Hourcade have no hesitation in considering the Championship as part of the World Cup campaign.
It is a shame that no more than a week after Samoa’s historic first Test match against New Zealand that the British & Irish Lions have turned down an invitation to play a warm-up fixture for their 2017 tour against Fiji. “All in all it was a step up and most of the guys would be reasonably happy”.
Carter will quit New Zealand rugby after this year’s World Cup to play for Racing Metro in France, while McCaw will retire after leading the All Blacks in their World Cup defense in September. “Hopefully the crowd will enjoy Richie and Dan’s performances [tonight] and give them a good farewell”.
Much in the same way that T20 was once considered a feeder sport for Test cricket, we could be seeing the start of a rugby revolution that will see sevens displace 15s as the sport of choice.
However, only four of 17 All Blacks squad members in the Otago Highlanders and Wellington Hurricanes who played in the Super 15 final less than two weeks ago have been called up. Hansen has indicated the potential damage the Pumas forwards could inflict by naming a vastly experienced pack, the majority of whom should provide the basis of his World Cup forward power.
For Australia, with coach Michael Cheika getting his first clear run at the job after essentially answering an SOS last autumn, it feels like a massively important month as he tries to implement his vision for the Wallabies and reintegrate Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, whose return to the fold he has done so much to make possible.
“We had him going pretty well from an injury point of view until he got a smack on the leg against New South Wales”, Hansen said.
“The All Blacks are always tough in every area of the game and their scrum is one area that’s very tough”, veteran prop Marcos Ayerza said. That was good and actually just what we needed in the first game of the season.
“But no one has won it back to back… hopefully we can get to that level of desperation, that level of want, so we can get another result”.