All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wants to experiment with selection against Argentina next month – but just how much will depend on a batch of medical reports.
Hansen is facing a sizeable injury list following Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup-clinching 27-16 win over Australia.
The status of his walking wounded after a week off this week will dictate Hansen’s selection approach for the Rugby Championships Test against the Pumas in Hamilton on September 7.
He is reluctant to stray too far from the side who opened the championship with resounding wins over the Wallabies in Sydney and Wellington
“We’ll look at introducing a couple of guys but it will really depend on how we come through the next week,” Hansen said.
“We’re battered a lot at the moment.
“If we can get some people recovered, we can look at our selection policy then.”
Most intrigue again surrounds first five-eighth, where fourth-choice Tom Taylor is ruled out due to a rib injury sustained late in his impressive debut at Wellington.
Hansen is hopeful Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett will have shaken off calf muscle injuries in time to face the Pumas but will take fifth-choice Colin Slade to Hamilton as insurance. Aaron Cruden is likely to be missing with a knee injury.
Backup at prop may also be needed after first-choice tighthead Owen Franks sustained a groin injury on Saturday.
Second five-eighth Ma’a Nonu needs a scan this week after playing through ankle pain in recent weeks.
Blindside flanker Liam Messam is a chance to return from a hamstring injury at his home ground.
Messam would replace the dynamic Steven Luatua, whose Wellington performance was a step up from his first start in Sydney seven days earlier, Hansen says.
“There was less walking this week, I think he’s got used to the speed and intensity of the game.
“He looked more assured, more comfortable being out there wearing that jersey.”
Luatua was part of an All Blacks side who scrambled well on defence, something which delighted Hansen.
The coach was more animated about Ben Smith’s desperate, but futile, chase when Wallabies wing Israel Folau raced clear to score from an intercept than he was about Smith’s own two tries.
A strong second half scrum and lineout performance was also pleasing, particularly ahead of the challenge of Argentina, who Hansen says will try to attack at set piece.
The Pumas produced a vastly improved performance against South Africa in Mendoza on Saturday, losing 22-17. A week earlier they lost 73-17 in Johannesburg.
“It was a nice wee reminder that they’re going to be hard to beat,” Hansen said.