WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Liam Squire will start a test for the first time and scrumhalf T.J. Perenara will make only his fifth starting appearance in 23 tests for the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Buenos Aires.
Squire starts on the blindside flank on Saturday, replacing the injured Jerome Kaino, and Perenara steps into the starting lineup in place of Aaron Smith, who is being rested.
There were in nine changes in total to the All Blacks squad which clinched the Rugby Championship with a 41-13 win over South Africa two weeks ago. Among those, lock Patrick Tuipulotu will start in place of Sam Whitelock, who moves to the bench, and Anton Lienert-Brown will play his fourth test at center in place of Malakai Fekitoa.
With the Championship trophy already secure, head coach Steve Hansen took the chance to rest leading players and to study the form of others.
"When it came to selecting this side our key focus was to select a team that would maintain a high standard of performance and also allow us to grow our player depth and experience in the test arena," Hansen said. "We also took into consideration the fact that we have seven tests under our belts this year and more tests and a lot of international travel to come."
Among the replacements, prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi returns to the bench in place of Charlie Faumuina, Elliot Dixon joins the reserves in his second test, Tawera Kerr-Barlow returns as reserve scrumhalf and fullback Damian McKenzie is in line to make his test debut.
"The expectation is that this side will build on the performances we've produced so far this year and play a game we can all be proud of," Hansen said. "This weekend presents a massive challenge for us. Argentina is a very good team — they put us under real pressure at times during the test in Hamilton and we've worked really hard this week to prepare."
Argentina pressured the All Blacks for 50 minutes when the teams met three weeks ago but faded in the last quarter before losing 57-22. The Pumas have yet to beat New Zealand in 23 test matches since 1985.
Hansen said he's expecting an even bigger challenge than the Pumas offered in New Zealand.
"Argentina are playing in front of their passionate home crowd and will feed off that passion," he said. "We'll have to start well to take the crowd out of the game. To do that we'll need to bring intensity, purpose and accuracy to all aspects of our game."
Whitelock could become New Zealand's most-capped lock if he takes the field for his 80th test. Captain Kieran Read with play his 92nd test as New Zealand's eighth most-capped player.
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Sam Whitelock, Elliot Dixon, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, Damian McKenzie.