Rugby Championship: team news and everything you need to know

New Zealand v Argentina and Australia v South Africa both underway on Saturday

There’s a lot of excitement over Richie Mo’unga getting his chance in the All Blacks number 10 jersey. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

There’s a lot of excitement over Richie Mo’unga getting his chance in the All Blacks number 10 jersey. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

 

New Zealand v Argentina
When: Saturday 8.35am Irish time
Where: Trafalgar Park, Nelson (capacity: 21,480 with temporary seats)
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Nic Berry (Australia); TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

NEW ZEALAND
World ranking: 1
Coach: Steve Hansen
Captain: Kieran Read
Team: Ben Smith; Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Waisake Naholo; Richie Mo’unga, TJ Perenara; Karl Tu’inukuafe, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks; Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett; Shannon Frizell, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read (captain).
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Tim Perry, Ofa Tuungafasi, Sam Whitelock, Luke Whitelock, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown.

ARGENTINA
World ranking: 9
Coach: Mario Ledesma
Captain: Agustin Creevy
Team: Emiliano Boffelli; Bautista Delguy, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano; Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Santiago Garcia Botta, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro; Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini; Tomas Lezana, Marcos Kremer, Javier Ortega Desio.
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Gaston Cortes, Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera, Tomas Cubelli, Bautista Ezcurra, Juan Cruz Mallia.

OVERALL RECORD
Played: 26
New Zealand wins: 25
Draws: 1

LAST FIVE MEETINGS
2017 New Zealand 36-10 Argentina Buenos Aires
2017 New Zealand 39-22 Argentina New Plymouth
2016 New Zealand 36-17 Argentina Buenos Aires
2016 New Zealand 57-22 Argentina Hamilton
2015 New Zealand 26-16 Argentina London*Rugby World Cup match

Richie Mo’unga advocates will finally get their wish when the outhalf starts a test for the first time on Saturday as New Zealand coach Steve Hansen gives the 24-year-old a chance to prove he can handle the step up from Super Rugby.

Mo’unga was named to start the Rugby Championship clash with Argentina at Trafalgar Park in Nelson (kickoff 0735 GMT), making just his second test appearance after picking up his debut cap off the bench against France in June.

Support for the Canterbury Crusaders pivot to usurp Beauden Barrett in the All Blacks number 10 jersey rose after Mo’unga guided his side to a ninth Super Rugby title, outplaying Barrett and Springboks outhalf Elton Jantjies on successive weeks.

Hansen, however, stuck with Barrett’s wealth of experience and the twice World Player of the Year repaid his faith with a four-try, 30-point performance against Australia in their 40-12 romp at Eden Park last month.

It was, however, only a matter of time before Mo’unga got the nod and Hansen said they needed to see what he could do at test level with the 2019 World Cup on the horizon.

“There is definitely extra pressure because it’s not Super Rugby,” Hansen said. “There is so much more pressure because it’s just not the Canterbury fans looking at him, it’s everybody.

“What he’s got to do is his own job, he doesn’t have to be Beauden Barrett, he has to be Richie Mo’unga and bring the skill sets he has.”

New Zealand have not lost any of their 26 tests against the Pumas, but the South Americans showed how dangerous they can be when they recorded a 32-19 victory against South Africa in Mendoza two weeks ago.

Captain Agustin Creevy said that win indicated they were aware of what did and did not work for them in the test arena after a terrible run saw them lose 21 of their previous 24 matches.

The All Blacks, however, are a different beast after consecutive victories over the Wallabies, and the Pumas would have to be perfect on Saturday, lock Guido Petti said.

“We must do all at 100 percent and have no errors at all,” the 23-year-old told reporters in Auckland this week. “Close to the perfect game. We know it’s not impossible.

“I insist what we are trying to do coming here is improving our level, and taking one step ahead, one step ahead every day. That is what is going to take us to our best level.”

Australia v South Africa

Kurtley Beale starts at outhalf against South Africa. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Kurtley Beale starts at outhalf against South Africa. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

When: Saturday 11am Irish time
Where: Lang Park, Brisbane (capacity: 21,480 with temporary seats)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Wales), Paul Williams (NZ); TMO: Glenn Newman (NZ)

AUSTRALIA
World ranking: 5
Coach: Michael Cheika
Captain: Michael Hooper
Team: Israel Folau; Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Matt Toomua, Marika Koroibete; Kurtley Beale, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Allan Alaalatoa; Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman; Lukhan Tui, Michael Hooper (captain), David Pocock.
Replacements: Folau Faingaa, Tom Robertson, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Ned Hanigan, Joe Powell, Bernard Foley, Jack Maddocks.

SOUTH AFRICA
World ranking: 7
Coach: Rassie Erasmus
Captain: Siya Kolisi
Team: Emiliano Boffelli; Bautista Delguy, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano; Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Santiago Garcia Botta, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro; Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini; Tomas Lezana, Marcos Kremer, Javier Ortega Desio.
Replacements: 16-Julian Montoya, 17-Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18-Gaston Cortes, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Pablo Matera, 21-Tomas Cubelli, 22-Bautista Ezcurra, 23-Juan Cruz Mallia.

OVERALL RECORD
Played: 85
Australia wins: 36
South Africa wins: 46
Draws: 3

LAST FIVE MEETINGS
2017 South Africa 27-27 Australia, Bloemfontein
2017 Australia 23-23 South Africa, Perth
2016 South Africa 18-10 Australia, Pretoria
2016 Australia 23-17 Australia, Brisbane
2015 Australia 24-20 South Africa, Brisbane

Under-pressure Australia coach Michael Cheika hopes a selection “shake-up” that has demoted regular outhalf Bernard Foley to the bench can ignite the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship with a win over South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday.

Foley started in the number 10 jersey in his last 24 tests but has paid the price after subdued performances in heavy back-to-back defeats to the champion All Blacks.

Kurtley Beale, who had been deployed at inside centre for the past year, assumes the playmaking position for the first time since 2014 as Cheika looks to spark an attack that managed only three tries in both matches against New Zealand.

Matt Toomua, who has returned from a stint in England, has been promoted from the bench to play at inside centre in the match at Lang Park.

“I suppose I just wanted to shake it up a little bit,” Cheika told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

“We’ve had some good things that have happened in the games, I know that hasn’t been brought out but there’s been some good things and I think that Toomua’s return, he’s shown a lot of good things as well around the place and he’s brought some of that on-field as well.

“I just thought I’d try a different combination and give them an opportunity together.”

Prop Sekope Kepu has been left out of the matchday squad altogether, while Rory Arnold comes in at the expense of lock Izack Rodda, who was ineffective against the All Blacks.

Despite coming into the tournament full of optimism, the Wallabies were largely woeful against the All Blacks, crumbling quickly when the pressure was on, while raising familiar concerns about their skills and fitness levels.

Australia have lost six of their past seven games, prompting pundits to call for Cheika’s dismissal a year out from the World Cup in Japan.

South Africa are not the calibre of the All Blacks, however, and the Wallabies have proved a handful for them on home soil.

Rassie Erasmus’s rebuilding side have their own problems and suffered a knock to their confidence in an away defeat to Argentina in their last start.

Like Cheika, Erasmus has also changed his number 10, with Elton Jantjies relegating Handre Pollard to the bench. The Springboks will also bring a new front row, loose forward trio and midfield.

Naming regular hooker Malcolm Marx and prop Tendai Mtawarira in the reserves after plenty of travel in the opening games, Erasmus may rely on his bench to carry the Springboks to victory at Lang Park, the venue of their last away win against the Wallabies in 2013.

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