WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, prop Karl Tu’inkuafe and loose forward Shannon Frizell will start Saturday’s test against Argentina to get experience ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The trio were chosen by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to start the Rugby Championship clash against the Pumas in Nelson to prove they can force their way into contention for the global tournament in Japan.
The world champions have eight tests remaining this year and probably four scheduled for 2019 before the World Cup starts in in September.
Eight players who started the 40-12 win over the Wallabies at Eden Park were retained in the team.
“While we’ve made a number of changes from our last outing, this is not a reflection on Argentina but rather a desire by us to grow the experience and depth of our squad,” Hansen said on Thursday.
“Secondary to that, we also know that if we don’t use the whole squad across a long season, we’ll run out of steam later in the year.”
Scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi is expected to make his test debut from the bench while winger Nehe Milner-Skudder will play his first test since last year’s Rugby Championship following a shoulder injury.
Centre Ryan Crotty and flanker Sam Cane, who suffered concussion symptoms following the first two tests against the Wallabies, were given a further week to recover before the All Blacks play South Africa in Wellington.
Winger Rieko Ioane suffered a hamstring injury in the 38-13 first test victory over Australia and is likely to come back into contention against the Springboks.
Team: 15-Ben Smith, 14-Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13-Jack Goodhue, 12-Ngani Laumape, 11-Waisake Naholo, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-TJ Perenara, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Ardie Savea, 6-Shannon Frizell, 5-Scott Barrett, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Tim Perry, 18-Ofa Tuungafasi, 19-Sam Whitelock, 20-Luke Whitelock, 21-Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22-Damian McKenzie, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ed Osmond)