Rugby Championship 2017: Argentina vs. New Zealand four things we learned

To the surprise of no one, New Zealand won again. What did we learn from the game?

The All Blacks smothered Argentina in Buenos Aires on their way to a comfortable 36-10 victory. As always, we can pick out certain aspects of the game that tell us about the teams going forwards. Here are four things we learned in this one:

Damian McKenzie can be a game breaker at this level

There has been much hand-wringing and worry among All Blacks fans recently about whether McKenzie is up to scratch and ready for international rugby yet. His small stature and his untimely mistakes have been the focus of much scrutiny, but this felt like a break-out game for the Chiefs’ star player. The incumbent SANZAAR Player of the year scored one try, set up another, and gained 107 metres during the game. These are the numbers he produces week every week in Super Rugby, but before this weekend we had yet to see it on the international stage. Even if he makes the odd mistake in the air, he is such a sharp attacking weapon that he cannot be ignored and must be accomodated in the All Blacks’ best 23. 

Argentina need to play the full 80 minutes

Argentina can be extremely frustrating to watch as they consistently are competitive for stretches of matches and then hopeless for the rest. Whether it is their passion that can often get the better of them or if that same passion is their saviour is up for debate. Either way, the coaching staff and those in charge of the team’s perpetration has to focus the team for the duration of a full international match. 

Many of their players seem to play with such aggression that they lose control, such as giving away a cheap penalty. However, when their passion is controlled, like at the start of the second half of this game, they look capable of matching top sides. Tiredness is a factor here too and the Pumas need to increase the depth of their squad by Japan 2019.

The All Blacks reserve locks are world class

This game was an opportunity for the Kiwi coaches to look at their reserve options to determine who they can trust should a starter be sidelined. Both Scott Barrett and Luke Romano played very well. Whilst neither is a natural ball-carrier, they both work tirelessly and are willing runners. At this point, the drop from their starting locks to their reserve locks seems to be from the best pair of second rowers in the world to the second or third best pair in the world. It is a luxury to have that depth in a position that receives no plaudits, but that is an essential cog to how a forward pack works in the modern game.

Argentina need a win soon

There is only so long that a team can go without winning a game. Argentina has struggled to win against anyone but Italy since the end of 2016 and this has an obvious effect on the team’s confidence and morale. This was evident against Australia where they couldn’t close a game they should have won and also in this match where they seemed to be beaten well before the first whistle even sounded. The passion for rugby in Argentina is real, and the country has done a great job of building from the grassroots level, especially with football being such a popular sport. That level though can only be sustained if the flagship team – The Pumas – are able to win games against the best in the world.

What do you think could be learned from the match? Do you agree with the above assessments? Comment to let us know

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