Those four, in particular, have fielded a heavy workload in 2019. Owen Franks spent much of the season injured so could still be looking for more game-time (though the All Blacks have plenty of coverage at prop) whilst Kieran Read only entered the fray late in the season after taking time away from the sport. Jack Goodhue is another that has regularly featured for the Super Rugby champions this year, but his services may still be needed in Buenos Aires.
Backs Seve Reece, George Bridge and Braydon Ennor all travelled to Auckland this week to spend time preparing for the Rugby Championship with the rest of the All Blacks. The rest of their Super Rugby teammates will join them today.
With Ryan Crotty not included in the squad, the All Blacks will be pushed to cover the midfield in Argentina unless they bring in some of the Crusaders contingent.
Sonny Bill Williams is also unavailable at present due to a hamstring issue.
“Sonny was running up and down the side of the field and got involved in training,” said All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster. “He can’t go hard off the mark just yet, but the fact he’s running freely without a lot of acceleration is a good sign, so we’re told.
“Hopefully by the end [of the week] he’s striding out properly and then we’ll make a decision. The initial plan was to take him. Now it’s whether we take him to rehab or to play, and we’ll figure that out.”
Williams’ and Crotty’s absences leaves the selectors with a gap to plug in the midfield.
Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown will likely pair up for the game against the Pumas, resuming the partnership that started in the final match of 2018 against Italy. The only other dedicated fit midfielder in the squad is Goodhue, whilst Ennor and Jordie Barrett can also cover there.
In all likelihood, one of Ennor or Goodhue will need to travel with the team to Argentina, although the selectors will want to leave behind as many players in New Zealand as is feasible.
The match against Argentina could be an excellent chance to blood Ennor, who had a stand out Super Rugby season both on the wing and at centre. With Mo’unga an almost certainty to be left in New Zealand, young Highlanders pivot Josh Ioane could also see action from the bench.
Potential All Blacks team to take on Argentina:
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe. Reserves: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Braydon Ennor.
WATCH – Players may be fitter, faster and stronger now than ever before – but that doesn’t mean the old brigade didn’t have any tricks up their sleeves:
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