All Blacks keen to improve on Samoa win

The All Blacks begin the defence of their Rugby Championship title targeting a big step-up in performance from their season-opening win over Samoa.

Skipper Richie McCaw and his men face Argentina in Christchurch on Friday night, just over a week after they stuttered to a 25-16 result in Apia.

McCaw says not too many stern words were needed after that match.

“Most of the boys who were out there realised that standard was not going to be good enough, but you can’t get yourself too much in a hole over it,” the flanker said on Thursday.

“There are probably some reasons for it, but the key was to get the learnings out of it and make sure the things we got wrong, we don’t this week.”

McCaw, in what will be a New Zealand-record extending 139th Test, will lead out a pack that has one change – lock Brodie Retallick in for Sam Whitelock – from the one that started against Samoa.

They are preparing for the expected torrid exchanges against the Pumas and their traditional accent on scrum dominance.

“The heart of their team is getting their set piece right,” McCaw said.

“It has been a big challenge for the men up front and our boys are well aware of that, so there’s a wee bit of edge there from our lads.”

After the 30C heat in Apia, the mercury is forecast to dip to zero come kick-off at AMI Stadium.

McCaw said it would be a case of adapting to whatever the conditions threw up.

If rain became part of the mix, it would make it even more important to pick when to use the ball and when to play for territory.

The year’s Rugby Championship has been reduced to one round because of the World Cup.

New Zealand have won the title in each of the three previous editions of the tournament.

They have also never lost to Argentina.

The closest the Pumas have come to toppling the All Blacks in 20 Tests was a 21-21 draw in Buenos Aires in 1985.

However, the South Americans go into this year’s championship boosted by their breakthrough 21-17 win over Australia in Mendoza in the final round last year.

To repeat the dose against the All Blacks at AMI Stadium, skipper Agustin Creevy said the Pumas would have to overcome opponents in whom he could see no weaknesses.

“If we play altogether with the heart, I think we can win,” the hooker said.

“But we need to give the best game of our lives.”

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