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The Rugby Championship: Round 1 Preview

Steve Hansen

The Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend and we will be here to preview and review every round, focusing in particular on New Zealand with the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour in mind.

The Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend and we will be here to preview and review every round, focusing in particular on New Zealand with the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour in mind.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has warned his side to forget about the World Cup for now and focus on the here and now as they kick off the Rugby Championship against Argentina on Friday.

The Pumas come to Christchurch to take on a Kiwi matchday 23 that shows six changes from the one that claimed an unimpressive victory over Samoa in Apia last weekend.

Waisake Naholo will make his debut on the right wing while Ma’a Nonu wears 13 with Sonny Bill Williams inside him in midfield.

TJ Perenara comes in at scrum-half while in the forwards Brodie Retallick starts at lock with hooker Codie Taylor in line for his debut if he comes off the bench.

The All Blacks have never lost to Argentina in their history and will face them in their World Cup opener in two months’ time but Hansen is keen not to look too far ahead.

“If you don’t play well in a Test match, it hurts. We didn’t play well in our last one so it’s been reasonably hurtful and this is our first opportunity to fix it,” he said.

“There has been a lot of talk about the Rugby World Cup and so forth, but this Test match is all about the here and now.

“It’s important that we get away to a really good start in the Rugby Championship. We will need to get points early if we are going to give ourselves a chance of winning the Championship.”

Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade, whose side have only one win at home against Australia from three years in the competition, fears his team face a backlash from an All Blacks unit embarrassed by being held to a 25-16 win by Samoa last week.

“Surely, they are going to correct what they have done. That's why they are the best team in the world," he said

In Saturday’s second game Australia welcome South Africa to Brisbane with a much-changed team that sees some old faces return to the squad.

Matt Giteau will start at 12 outside Quade Cooper with Will Genia at scrum-half while Drew Mitchell returns to the bench.

Meanwhile the Springboks do not opt to rush Jean de Villiers back, preferring Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel in midfield for the crunch clash.

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