All Blacks can seal Rugby Championship
Focus to be on Barrett’s and debutant Harris ’s performances
NEW Zealand can seal their third successive R ugby Championship title with a bonuspoint win ag ainst the Pumas in La Plata today, but the longterm focus will be on the performances of fl yhalf B eauden B arrett and rookie hooker Nathan Harris.
Steve Hansen’s side lead the annual southern hemisphere tournament on 16 points with South Africa and Australia, who meet in Cape Town, on 10 apiece.
An extrapoint win by scoring four or mor e trie s, something the All Blacks have accomplished in their two previous Rugby Championship clashes in Argentina, will ensure they clinch the title before their final showdown against the Springbok s in J ohannesburg on Oct ober 4.
The longterm focus, however, will be on the performance of Barrett and whether Harris makes his Test debut off the bench aft er v eteran Keven Mealamu moved into the starting side for t oday’s mat ch.
Barrett will mak e jus t his sec ond start in the pi votal role, three weeks after his first — also against the Pumas — where he impressed with his game management, dis tribution, running and t actical kicking but had a poor goalkicking perf ormance.
The 23yearold missed four shots at goal in Napier and had been expected to again back up Aaron Cruden before the W aikato Chief s pla ymaker was dumped for the final two matches after he missed the flight to Argentina following a night out drinking .
Solid performances by Barrett at La Plata and Ellis P ark c ould pr ovide Hansen with a selection dilemma ahead of their Bledisloe C up clash with Australia on October 18 and going forward to next year’s World Cup.
Cruden will be brought back for the Brisbane game, while Test world leading points sc orer Dan Carter is also expected to return from injury and be included in the squad.
The inclusion of Harris could help solve a longerterm issue for Hansen, who has been struggling to find a third hooker for the team after Andrew Hore r etired las t y ear.
The 22yearold Harris is expected to make his debut off the bench today
15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Juan Imhoff, 1 3 Mar celo Bo sch, 12 Juan Martin Hernandez, 11 Manuel Mont ero, 10 Nic olas Sanchez, 9 T omas Cubelli, 8 L eonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martin F ernandez Lobbe, 6 Benjamin Macome, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 R amiro Herr era, 2 Agus tin Cr eevy (capt), 1 Mar cos A yerza. 16 Matias C ortese, 17 Luc as No guera P az, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 R odrigo Bae z, 21 Martin Landajo , 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Horacio Agulla
15 Isr ael Dagg, 1 4 Ben Smith, 1 3 C onrad S mith, 12 Malak ai F ekitoa, 11 Julian Sa vea, 10 Beauden Barr ett, 9 Aar on Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Jer ome K aino, 5 Sam Whit elock, 4 Br odie Retallick, 3 Ow en F ranks, 2 K even Mealamu, 1 Wyatt Cr ockett. 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Joe Moody , 18 Ben F ranks, 19 Jer emy Thr ush, 20 Sam Cane , 21 T J P erenara, 22 C olin Slade , 23 C ory Jane . after D ane Coles was r eleased fr om the squad t o return to New Zealand for the birth of his fir st child.
How Harris s tands up t o the be st scrum in the w orld and c ements his role at the lineout, breakdown and in open play will give Hansen an indication of whether he has ans wered his most vexing question less than a year out fr om the W orld Cup.
Argentina c oach Daniel Hourcade has asked his t eam to play more expansively this season to complement their impr essive p ack, though the y have not created as many line breaks or sc ored the trie s the y would ha ve anticipated.
Rangy lock T omas La vanini has been brought back into the side after he was suspended for one match following their enc ounter in N apier, when he charged into All Blacks captain Richie M cCaw at a ruck.
Massive winger Manuel Montero, who has sc ored t wo of his side’ s six tries in the competition, also returns to face the All Blacks after he was left out in N ew Z ealand f or what Hourcade called “t actical r easons”.
The match is telecast on SS1 from 11.30 pm.
— Reuters. NEW Sri Lank a c oach M arvan A tapattu targeted more success yesterday for cricket’s reigning T20 champions in next year’s 50overs World Cup, saying mor ale was on a high.
In his fir st pr ess c onference sinc e landing the job fulltime, Atapattu said there was no dang er of c omplacency among his players and even star batsman K umar S angakkara r ecognised there w as r oom f or impr ovement ahead of the tournament in New Zealand and A ustralia.
“It is the World Cup that is our focus. Our morale is high. We have had a good run in the past six months and obviously the challeng e f or me is t o sustain the success and build on it”, Atapattu t old r eporters.
“I ha ve a t eam of pla yers who ar e willing t o lis ten and learn. E ven the world’s number one batsman [Sangakkara] always wants to learn something new t o add t o his g ame.”
Sri Lankan cricket has been buoyed by their T20 W orld Cup triumph in April followed by Test series victories against England and Pakistan when Atapattu was int erim c oach.
Although world number one t eam South Africa did snat ch a 10 vict ory in a twoTest series in July, the 43yearold A tapattu did enough t o impr ess cricket chiefs, who handed him a two year c ontract ear lier this w eek.
“The main challenge obviously is to maintain our recent success,” said the former opening b atsman.
“I want to have transparency in what I do so that all players know what our plans are and how and where they fit in,” added A tapattu, who was part of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team.
Sri Lanka will warm up for the World Cup, which runs fr om February 14 to March 29, with 1 4 ODI s ag ainst England and the t ournament’s cohosts New Z ealand.
Atapattu, a f ormer skipper f or the national side, is the island nations’ seventh coach in the las t four years, but is the first Sri Lankan to hold the post in 15 y ears.
He r eplaced Englishman P aul Farbrace, who quit in April after just four months in charge to become England’s deputy c oach. — S apaAFP.
Beauden Barr ett mak es his s econd s tart f or the All Bl acks at fl yhalf in the R ugby Championship cl ash ag ainst Ar gentina t oday.