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Fernández and Bosch to start together
The same formation posted earlier today has been confirmed by head coach Santiago Phelan as the official team to face the All Blacks in Hamilton on Saturday. As such there are a total of four changes from the team that was unlucky to not complete a win over South Africa in Mendoza ten days ago.
Returning to the team for the first time since November is captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. The current Heineken Cup champion missed the first two matches of the campiagn but will start and lead the team on Saturday. His return sees an altered back-row with Juan Manuel Leguizamón moving to the back of the scrum in place of the suspended Leonardo Senatore. The veteran combination of Leguizamón and Fernández Lobbe will be joined by the impressive 20 year old Pablo Matera. Should Matera be able to maintain his form then he is certain to attract offers to play professional rugby at the elite level.
Fernández Lobbe will earn his 53rd cap while Legauizamón will play his 49th and will earn his 50th against Australia in Perth seven days later. No other Pumas player has played 50 tests but there are, nonetheless, a number of veterans. In the secondrow a returning Manuel Carizza joins 34 year old Julio Farías Cabello as Patricio Albacete remains sidelined. They will play behind a front-row that continues to start Eusebio Guiñazú at hooker over the more mobile and better running Agustín Creevy. Guiñazú will earn his 30th cap while starting between Marcos Ayerza and Juan Figallo who will earn his 20th.
The starting halves are unchanged with Martín Landajo continuing to be Phelan´s number one choice. He will join Nicolás Sánchez who is set to take over from Felipe Contepomi as the goalkicker. Sánchez would appear to be the better goalkicker but with experience on his side Contepomi has been utilized thus far. Age, however, is not on his side and he has lost the inside centre position to Santiago Fernández who is to play his 27th test for Argentina. The return of Fernández sees Argentina reform its mid-field combination from the 2012 Rugby Championship as Fernández will join Marcelo Bosch in the midfield.
Bosch has established himself a reputation in New Zealand as being one of Argentina´s leading backs. The reason is his ability to cover tackle and his two good tries against South Africa in Mendoza and France in Lille in November. Another player to have caught the imagination of serious rugby followers from down under is Juan Imhoff. The Racong Métro winger has been considered by many to be Argentina´s most lethal option on attack and to be a player to break the stereo-type of a Pumas winger. Imhoff, though, will not play in Hamilton. Instead Horacio Agulla will start and do so in a back-three which included Gonzalo Camacho and Juan Martín Hernández.
No place for Imhoff is compounded by the bench featuring Lucas González Amorosino as the reserve player covering wing. Although González Amorosino deserves a place on form and ability it means a situation has developed which never should have been possible - Argentina playing against New Zealand without its best try-scorer. Agulla has long appeared to offer the services of an outside centre but is yet to seriously be used there. He did train in the position on Monday in Auckland for a period of time. In other words, should Bosch require replacing then Agulla will play in the mid-field.
Also on the bench as replacement backs are Contepomi and scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli. The replacement forwards are familiar from Mendoza with Creevy, Juan Pablo Orlandi and Nahuel Lobo providing front-row coverage while Mariano Galarza is the reserve second-rower and Benjamín Macome is the replacement back-rower. Galarza had performed well in Mendoza and his selection means that the Chiefs bound Tomás Lavanini will not play in Hamilton.
1 Marcos Ayerza (41 tests)
2 Eusebio Guiñazú (29 tests)
3 Juan Figallo (19 tests)
4 Manuel Carizza (34 tests)
5 Julio Farías Cabello (23 tests)
6 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (52 tests)
7 Pablo Matera (4 tests)
8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (48 tests)
9 Martín Landajo (20 tests)
10 Nicolás Sánchez (10 tests)
11 Horacio Agulla (44 tests)
12 Santiago Fernández (26 tests)
13 Marcelo Bosch (20 tests)
14 Gonzalo Camacho (22 tests)
15 Juan Martín Hernández (40 tests)
16 Agustín Creevy (24 tests)
17 Nahuel Lobo (3 tests)
18 Juan Pablo Orlandi (11 tests)
19 Mariano Galarza (14 tests)
20 Benjamín Macome (12 tests)
21 Tomás Cubelli (15 tests)
22 Felipe Contepomi (83 tests)
23 Lucas González Amorosino (22 tests)