<
>

New Zealand v Argentina - All Blacks must put down early marker

Wembley hosts easily Pool C's biggest game of this Rugby World Cup with defending champions New Zealand getting their campaign off against Argentina. The All Blacks had far too much class for the Pumas during this year's Rugby Championship clash in Christchurch and will again start heavy favourites, but they will want to deliver an early message, too, as their remaining Pool C fixtures - against Tonga, Georgia and Namibia - are unlikely to see them shift beyond second gear. The Pumas, meanwhile, will look to limit their opponents' continuity and stifle the world champions by slowing things down at the set-piece.

Team news

Hansen has made just the one change to the side that defeated Australia in Bledisloe II more than a month ago with Jerome Kaino returning at blindside flanker in place of Victor Vito. The ominous starting line-up features in excess of 1000 Test caps however 11 of the match-day 23 will be making their first World Cup appearance.

Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.

While the All Blacks have opted for stability, Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade has instead swung the selection axe in making seven changes to the side beaten by the Springboks in Buenos Aires last month. In come Marcos Ayerza, Guido Petti, Pablo Matera, Leonardo Senatore, Tomas Cubelli, Juan Martin Hernandez and Marcelo Bosch with the back-row duo of Matera and Senatore particularly crucial.

Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero, Marcelo Bosch, Juan Martin Hernandez, Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Leonardo Senatore, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy, Marcso Ayerza.

Replacments: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Ramiro Herrera, Mariano Galarza, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Martin Landajol Jerome De La Fuente, Lucas Gonzalex Amorosino.

Key head-to-head

Juan Martin Hernandez was the man who helped spark the Pumas to their history-making defeat of the Springboks before the aforementioned home loss in Buenos Aires, and 'El Majo' will likely need to produce something similar if the Pumas are to stay in this contest. The veteran playmaker must take some of the responsibility away from fly-half Nicolas Sanchez, who was disappointing during the Rugby Championship. On the other side of the coin lies the Ma'a Nonu, who returned after missing the Sydney Bledisloe to cause the Aussies all kinds of headaches in Auckland. Heading to France at the conclusion of this tournament, the 97-Test veteran will want to start this campaign in typically powerful style.

Key stats

• New Zealand are unbeaten against Argentina in 21 matches with the Pumas' best result being a draw way back in 1985.

• In two previous World Cup encounters (1987 and 2011), the All Blacks have averaged 39.5 points while the Pumas boast just 12.5 points.

• All Blacks inside-centre Ma'a Nonu is a perfect nine from nine in World Cup matches; he also has four tries across three separate tournaments.

Odds

Unibet only have eyes for the All Blacks; the defending champions have been installed as red-hot favourites at 1/20. Anyone willing to chance their arm on the Pumas will like the look of the 9/1 price while the line odds of +21.5 may offer up an option if the weather turns ugly.

Weather

According to the Met Office, fans heading to Wembley Stadium can expect cloudy conditions and a temperature around 17 degrees Celsius.

Prediction

The Pumas may well have their moments in this match but anything other than a comfortable All Blacks victory will be regarded as a major World Cup shock. It's the All Blacks by 23 here.