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‘Battle of collisions’: Sam Cane expects ‘physical’ challenge against Los Pumas

By Finn Morton
Sam Cane of the All Blacks leads the team out ahead of The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Marvel Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Captain Sam Cane is expecting a “battle of collisions” on Saturday when the All Blacks open their Rugby Championship campaign against a passionate Los Pumas since in Mendoza.

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New Zealand and Argentina have established a fiery rivalry over the last few years, with Los Pumas beating their more fancied opponents on multiple occasions away from home.

Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez kicked the Pumas to their first-ever win over the All Blacks on neutral ground in 2020, and Argentina backed that up with another famous result last year.

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The All Blacks were coming off a series of underwhelming performances to start their 2022 season, including two disappointing defeats to Ireland and another underwhelming display against South Africa.

Many rugby fans expected the New Zealanders to bounce back in front of their home fans.

But Los Pumas had another idea.

Playing in front of a vibrant crowd in Christchurch, Argentina recorded an unforgettable seven-point win – their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand.

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Historically, this rivalry has been played with plenty of passion and bravery from both sides. The forward packs in particular have refused to cower at the prospect of a war in the rugby trenches.

Cane will start at seven alongside Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea and Highlanders flanker Shannon Frizell in the backrow, and come up against a powerful Argentine loose forward trio – including former Crusader Pablo Matera.

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“When you think about collisions, loose forwards are involved in a lot of those on both sides of the ball,” Cane told reporters on Friday.

“Not just the loosies, they’ve got a big, physical forward pack. They pride themselves on set-piece dominance and they’re big bodies, they know how to carry hard and tackle hard.

“It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to as a forward pack. It’s no secret that rugby games are often won up front up so it’s gonna be good.”

The All Blacks have a history of success, but things aren’t always perfect. Especially in the opening Test match of the year, the New Zealanders tend to be a tad slow out of the blocks.

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They may avoid a loss, but the All Blacks have a history of looking far from polished to open their international campaign.

But for the current squad of All Blacks, they’ll be looking to hit the ground round running when they take the field in Mendoza.

“We’ll be looking to go out and play well right well from the outset. We know that’s not always possible against quality opposition,” Cane added.

“There will be times in the game where things don’t go out way, no doubt, but we’ll just have to do our best to adapt and overcome as soon as possible.

“It’ll be a battle of collisions and that’ll decide a lot of the game so that’s something that as a forward pack we’re looking forward to.”

As well as Pablo Matera on the blindside flank, Los Pumas have named a strong lineup across the park.

Julian Montoya will run out in the No. 2 jersey, while lock Tomas Lavanini will look to provide his trademark physicality and passion to this decisive Rugby Championship opener.

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The backline includes playmaker Santiago Carreras and dazzling winger Emiliano Boffelli. Playmaker Nicholas Sanchez has also been named on the bench.

It’s an Argentine side that, as Cane said, the All Blacks “have a lot of respect for.”

“I think there’s an edge every time we play a Test match and then particularly the first one of the season.

“It’s the first time in a wee while, I think since the last World Cup, that we’ve had our first Test away from home.

“To have it here in Mendoza, we’re aware that the All Blacks have only played here twice in our history and this will be the first Test match.

“We’ve been told it’s very much an area of Argentina that supports rugby big time and the stadium sold out pretty quickly. I’m sure they’ll have a pretty hostile crowd which is exciting, it’s a good challenge.

“Obviously an Argentinian side that we have a lot of respect for.”

The highly anticipated Test between the All Blacks and Los Pumas in Mendoza is set to get underway at about 7.10 am NZST on Sunday morning.

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Turlough 3 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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