September 07, 2012
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Henry factor spices up All Blacks-Pumas clash

The All Blacks have one eye on the future and one on the past as the Graham Henry factor looms large in the run-up to Saturday's Rugby Championship clash against Argentina.

Argentina are expected to employ their forward-orientated approach but the unknown element is what else they will pack into their armoury now former All Blacks boss Henry is firmly in their camp.

Henry signed on as Los Pumas' technical director less than a year after guiding the All Blacks to World Cup victory and previously being hailed as the "Great Redeemer" after lifting the fortunes of Wales.

"All I'm doing is trying to assist them to play the best they can," said the man whose credentials include a remarkable winning average of 85.4 percent in 103 Tests with the All Blacks.

Argentina playmaker Juan Martin Hernandez said Henry's influence was expanding their options once the heavyweight forwards had done their job.

"He's teaching and giving advice to improve ourselves as players individually in our positions," said the fly-half who missed Argentina's 16-16 draw with South Africa last month because of injury.

"We've been good at defending, but not attack so he's focused on that."

The return of Hernandez and hard-nosed flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon are the only changes to the Pumas from that match while the All Blacks, who have lost Dan Carter to injury, have made six changes to their line-up.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, Henry's former assistant, expects Argentina to be well schooled in the All Blacks preparations.

"You're thinking here's a guy who has been intimate with your team for a long, long time and hopefully he doesn't tell them everything. On the other hand it's really exciting because we've moved on a bit from when he was here.

"Because he is a great student of the game, to have him prepare a side to play against you, at the end of it we'll find out whether we've got any weaknesses or not."

The All Blacks are the only unbeaten side in the Rugby Championship with two wins against Australia while Argentina suffered a 27-6 loss to South Africa in their opening game before fighting back to seal a draw in the return match.

Among the All Blacks changes, senior lock Sam Whitelock has been benched for Brodie Retallick to partner Luke Romano in a raw partnership with a mere eight Tests between them against Manuel Carizza and Patricio Albacete, who boast 73.

Prop Tony Woodcock and centre Conrad Smith return as expected from injury, Victor Vito replaces Liam Messam on the side of the scrum and Julian Savea comes on to the left wing for Hosea Gear.

After marking his debut with three tries in the first Test against Ireland in June, Savea has not been seen since he was exposed under the high ball a week later.

"But we've got to look to the future as well and this man has got a big future and we're looking to see him have a start," said Hansen.

Hansen rates Argentina as a confident side who "clearly thought they could win" when beaten by the All Blacks 33-10 in the World Cup quarter-finals and "they should've beaten South Africa" last month.

There has not been great innovation by their backs in the past "but who knows? This weekend (Argentina) might want to let them rip, it might be one of Graham's master plans."

AFP
 

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