All Blacks say Pu­mas ‘dan­ger­ous’ foes

New Zealand coach Hansen, skip­per Read both wary of Ar­gen­tines ahead of to­day’s Test

Bangkok Post - - SPORTS -

>> NEW PLY­MOUTH: New Zealand talked up Ar­gentina as a “dan­ger­ous” foe yes­ter­day on the eve of their Rugby Cham­pi­onship Test in New Ply­mouth, dis­miss­ing the South Amer­i­cans’ form slump over the past two years.

Af­ter ris­ing to fifth in the world rank­ings when they made the 2015 World Cup semi-fi­nals, Los Pu­mas have since dropped to 10th de­spite a reg­u­lar diet of Rugby Cham­pi­onship matches against Bledis­loe Cup win­ners New Zealand, South Africa and Aus­tralia.

“I don’t take any no­tice of those rank­ings. The his­tory of this cham­pi­onship is they have been very tough op­po­nents for us, even here in New Zealand,” All Blacks captain Kieran Read said.

“They’re un­pre­dictable. They’ve cer­tainly got some play­ers who’ve got ex­pe­ri­ence — in Su­per Rugby and at this level — so [they are] a dan­ger­ous side.”

Since Ar­gentina joined the cham­pi­onship in 2012, in a move aimed at lift­ing their stan­dard of play, they have never beaten New Zealand in 10 matches with the All Blacks scor­ing 44 tries to 11 and pro­duc­ing an av­er­age win­ning score of 36-14.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen ar­gued that Ar­gentina were in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion with an ar­du­ous travel sched­ule to reach any of the top tier play­ing na­tions.

“They’ve gone from be­ing a team that was spread all around the world, which has its ups and downs, to a team that were brought to­gether and put into the Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion,” he said.

“Now they play four or five home games ev­ery year and then their next clos­est game is New Zealand, which I think is 15 hours’ flight time.

“It’s an hor­rific sched­ule they’ve got. I think that takes a lot out of them. I cer­tainly wouldn’t want to be do­ing it, but it is what it is for them.”

Hansen and Read also had sym­pa­thy with the un­der­per­form­ing Ar­gen­tines as they tried to move away from their tra­di­tional brute-strength for­ward game to play more open rugby.

“Through Su­per Rugby they’ve de­vel­oped more of a rounded game and have they got to where they want to get to? I don’t think so yet,” Hansen said.

“Has that been at the ex­pense of some of their for­ward play? Not sure. But there will be some com­pro­mis­ing going on if you’re try­ing to work hard on your other type of game.”

Read said is was ob­vi­ous they were no longer a one-di­men­sional side and had threats across the park.

“Prob­a­bly their ball car­ri­ers in the loose for­wards are among the best in the world and their backs, on their day, are pretty dan­ger­ous coun­ter­at­tack­ers, along­side that is the scrum and the maul.

“So a dan­ger­ous side. they’ve cer­tainly got bet­ter play­ing i n this cham­pi­onship.”

When Los Pu­mas ar­rived in New Ply­mouth yes­ter­day, af­ter a week train­ing in Auck­land, captain Agustin Creevy ac­cepted there were prob­lems but said they were be­ing ad­dressed.

“We are train­ing a lot. We know we have to im­prove our scrum so we can get the scrum we used to have be­fore,” he said.

He added they were also learn­ing that the Jaguares in Su­per Rugby had to be han­dled dif­fer­ently to Los Pu­mas, but the project of keep­ing most of the Test play­ers to­gether year round had to con­tinue.

“It is not the same for Su­per Rugby and the Rugby Cham­pi­onship so we are learn­ing about that and tak­ing the good points to de­velop. This is part of the sac­ri­fice we have to make for the fu­ture of Ar­gentina rugby.”

New Zealand captain Kieran Read holds the tro­phy af­ter win­ning the Bledis­loe Cup.

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