McKenzie at 10, Narawa earns All Blacks debut vs. Pumas

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Fiji-born wing Emoni Narawa will make his New Zealand debut in their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Mendoza on Saturday, while fly-half Damian McKenzie and lock Josh Lord feature for the first time since 2021.

Narawa will earn his first cap a few days shy of his 24th birthday, with Caleb Clarke on the other wing and Beauden Barrett at fullback.

The versatile McKenzie has been preferred to Richie Mo'unga in the number 10 jersey, though the latter is on the bench and may be being held back for the home game against South Africa in Auckland a week later.

Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett make up the centre pairing in Mendoza, while scrum-half Aaron Smith will extend his record number of All Blacks caps for a back to 114.

Lord will partner the third Barrett brother, Scott, in the second row, while in front of them are props Tyrel Lomax and Ethan de Groot, and hooker Dane Coles.

The back-row of the scrum includes captain Sam Cane and fellow flanker Shannon Frizell. Ardie Savea starts at number eight.

"We have taken the need to build combinations in a vital year and balanced it with the need to manage the squad after Super Rugby," coach Ian Foster said in a media release from New Zealand Rugby.

"This is obviously a massive year and we are really confident in the way that we've been building. We have had a short build-up but an effective one."

Last year was a difficult one for the side despite their victory in the Rugby Championship, but Foster says there is a real desire to start this campaign on a positive note.

"We have loved our time here in Mendoza for what will be a tremendous challenge," he said. "We've enjoyed seeing how excited everyone is for this weekend's game and can't wait to get stuck into our work."

Argentina coach Michael Cheika has meanwhile picked an experienced team with the only surprise a return after almost three years out of the side for prop Lucio Sordoni. That suggests he is not 100% sure of his front-row options ahead of the World Cup.

"I want to give the opportunity to the players who are doing well," Cheika said. "We have a group with a lot of experience and there are players who can get into the squad ahead of the World Cup.

"There is an opportunity for players such as Lucio Sordoni, Lucio Cinti, Bautista Delguy, Mateo Carreras and Pedro Rubiolo."

Putting together an 80-minute performance, something Argentina have struggled with in the past, will be crucial to any success they may have.

"This is the mentality we must have. Be focused for the 80 minutes and give everything," Cheika said.

ARGENTINA: Emiliano Boffelli, Bautista Delguy, Matias Moroni, Lucio Cinti, Mateo Carreras, Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Rodrigo Bruni, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno, Lucio Sordoni, Julian Montoya, Thomas Gallo. Replacements: Augustin Creevy, Mayco Vivas, Eduardo Bello, Pedro Rubiolo, Sanriago Grondona, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Nicolas Sanchez, Matias Orlando.

NEW ZEALAND: Beauden Barrett, Emoni Narawa, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Damian McKenzieAaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Josh Lord, Scott Barrett, Tyrel Lomax,Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot. Replacements: Codie Taylor, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaa'i, Dalton Papali'i, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo'unga, Braydon Ennor.