|(Rugby) Pumas in good shape for All Blacks test
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has leapt to the defense of Argentina, saying they do not play dirty and that he expects a hard but fair contest in the Rugby Championships test Saturday.
New Zealand will attempt to extend their record of 15 wins and one draw in tests against the Pumas at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium.
Argentina will be without backrower Leonardo Senatore who has been banned for nine weeks as a result of an incident during last weekend's loss to South Africa in Mendoza. Flanker Pablo Matera was cited for eye gouging in the same match but was exonerated.
Hansen said while unacceptable incidents often occurred “in the heat of battle...I don't see them as being a dirty team.''
At the beginning of the week backrower Kieran Read issued what might have been interpreted as a warning to Argentina that the All Blacks won't be intimidated.
“You've got to play clean and fair,'' Read said. “What they do will dictate I guess a little bit on our response but we're going to stay as clean as we can. And there's ways that you can dominate without being cheap and nasty.''
The All Blacks are 2 for 2 in this season's championships after beating Australia comfortably at home and away. They managed those victories in the absence of regular playmaker Dan Carter, who returns from a calf injury.
The heavy injury toll of New Zealand No 10s has at least displayed New Zealand's depth in that position.
The Pumas have been strengthened by the return from injury of captain Juan Martn Fernndez Lobbe, who replaces Senatore, and of Juan Martin Hernandez at fullback.
“We're in good shape,'' coach Santiago Phelan said. –AP