RWC 15: Six novices in New Zealand XV for Argentina

Tony Woodcock will equal former Jason Leonard’s world record of 104 caps at prop

The New Zealand 23-man match squad contains 11 players who will take part in their first Rugby World Cup match when the reigning champions take to the field against Argentina on Sunday at Wembley stadium.

Six of the RWC novices are in the starting team, fullback Ben Smith, wings Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea, scrumhalf Aaron Smith, hooker Dan Coles and secondrow Brodie Retallick, while all bar Keven Mealamu and Sonny Bill Williams on the bench will make their tournament bow when introduced.

Tony Woodcock will equal former England player Jason Leonard's world record of 104 caps at prop while captain Richie McCaw will be playing in his 17th World Cup match, a record for his national team.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said: "We've selected what we believe is a very strong team. We have the utmost respect for Argentina who we know a lot more about now because of their involvement in The Rugby Championship. But it also means they know a lot more about us.


“We will need to be at our best to get the tournament away to a good start. We’ve had a great preparation and there will be no excuses for not performing on Sunday.”

Hansen continued: “The last few weeks, felt like four years, all the training, the planning. We have a group of men who are just itching to get started. I am looking forward to tonight’s game (England v Fiji); the first game of any World Cup is special. I am sure that we will see a rousing performance from both teams.”

The New Zealand coach cut a relaxed figure, interspersing more serious observations with moments of humour. He maintained that the selection for the game against the Pumas was ‘pretty straightforward.’

“We have another game in four days time so that was taken into consideration. We have 31-players who can start but we just have to look at who we are playing and get the combinations right (for that particular match).

Looking forward to visiting Wembley for the first time in terms of a competitive occasion Hansen smiled when asked why he was so relaxed. “There’s no point in getting nervous; it is a game of rugby and it’s very important, but it’s a game of rugby at the end of the day.

“We want to win this thing (tournament) but we have to earn the right and you do that by your preparation. We take confidence from the fact that we have worked hard.

“It’s (RWC) the pinnacle of everybody’s career whether you play for New Zealand, England, Argentina or Japan, this is the place you want to be. Until you get the first one out of the way, it seems that you are like a duck siting on a pond, treading water underneath but sitting still on the top.

“Every team will play at a higher level than they did prior to getting here; everyone gets up for it and we’d expect that from Argentina.”

Daniel Hourcade has also named his Argentina XV for the game - Agustin Creevy will lead out the Pumas as they look for a first win in 21 games against the World Champions.

Argentina have announced a young team with seven World Cup debutants - four forwards and three backs who all helped Argentina avoid the Rugby Championship wooden spoon for the first time in August against South Africa.

There are five changes from that side beaten 26-12 by South Africa in their last test in Buenos Aires a week later.

New Zealand: B Smith; N Milner-Skudder, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith; T Woodcock, D Coles, O Franks; B Retallick, S Whitelock; J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Replacements: K Mealamu, W Crockett, C Faumunia, V Vito, S Cane, TJ Perenara, B Barrett, S Bill Williams.

Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet; Santiago Cordero, Marcelo Bosch, Juan Martin Hernandez, Juan Imhoff; Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Marcos Ayerza, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro; Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini; Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Leonardo Senatore.

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Ramiro Herrera, Mariano Galarza, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Martin Landajo, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer