Crotty returns to All Blacks lineup in Rugby Championship
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Ryan Crotty will return from injury in midfield in the only change to the All Blacks' starting lineup for Saturday's Rugby Championship test against Argentina in Hamilton.
Crotty missed New Zealand's 29-9 win over Australia in the second Bledisloe Cup test after sustaining a minor head injury in its previous win over the Wallabies in Sydney.
The reinstatement of Crotty's midfield partnership with Malakai Fekitoa displaces Anton Lienert-Brown, who made a strong test debut at inside center at Wellington two weeks ago.
Lienert-Brown drops to the reserve bench, at the expense of Seta Tamanivalu, while hooker Codie Taylor joins the reserves in place of James Parsons and lock Luke Romano returns in place of Liam Squire.
Head coach Steve Hansen said the selection reflected the All Blacks' desire to maintain consistency as they rebuild after winning last year's Rugby World Cup.
"The squad is five games into re-establishing themselves on the international stage and we felt that it would not be right to make a lot of changes," Hansen said.
Hansen said the All Blacks would face "a completely different challenge" from Argentina than it had from Australia. The Pumas have never beaten the All Blacks in 22 tests but are coming off a confidence-boosting 26-24 win over South Africa.
"Argentina will bring their traditional physicality up front and flair in the backs and we will have to be ready for whatever they throw at us," he said. "They have shown in their time in the Rugby Championship and especially in their two recent tests against South Africa that they are a very good side and will bring their own unique challenges."
Hansen said his squad had worked "on getting reconnected as a group, getting the understanding of our roles cemented and getting our mental attitude right."
Captain Kieran Read will play his 90th test on Saturday while prop Owen Franks will play his 83rd, equal in 10th place on the New Zealand list of test appearances. If Franks doesn't score he will equal Italian prop Salvatore Perugini's record of most tests without scoring a try.
Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade has made three changes to the starting lineup that beat the Springboks at Salta.
Guido Petti joins at lock and Javier Ortega Desio on the openside flank, replacing Thomas Lavanini and Juan Manuel Leguizamon. Matias Moroni will start on the right wing in place of the injured Manuel Montero.
Leonardo Senatore, Mark Kremer and Ramiro Moyano join the reserves bench for the first time in the Championship this season.
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Ardie Savea, T.J. Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Anton Lienert-Brown.
Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Juan Martin Hernandez, Santiago Cordero, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo, Facundo Isa, Javier Ortego Desio, Pablo Matera, Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti, Ramiro Herrera, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Reserves: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Enrique Pieretto, Marcos Kremer, Leonardo Senatore, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Ramiro Moyano.