Argentina pin hopes on Carreras fly-half switch against All Blacks

·3-min read
Fullback Santiago Carreras will make his first start at fly-half for Argentina against the All Blacks on Saturday (AFP/Michael Sheehan)

Argentina's Santiago Carreras faces the daunting task of making his first Test appearance at fly-half against the All Blacks Saturday, in a bold selection gamble forced by injuries and poor results.

Under pressure coach Mario Ledesma lost his first choice number 10 Nicolas Sanchez to injury in last week's 39-0 loss to the New Zealanders but had a ready replacement in Domingo Miotti.

Instead he opted to pitch Gloucester's Carreras into the fray for the Rugby Championship round-four clash in Brisbane, even though he is unproven as a playmaker at Test level, leaving Miotti on the bench.

Ledesma said 23-year-old Carreras, who normally plays Tests at fullback or wing, was a "natural" in the number 10 jersey.

"He looks dangerous with the ball, has a good right foot... we've wanted to put him in that position for a while," he said.

Last week's shutout by New Zealand followed two heavy losses to South Africa and Ledesma said his team's long stint on the road was taking its toll.

Sanchez was one of four starters from last Sunday unable to play again because of injury niggles, limiting Ledesma's selection option.

"They play practically 12 months of the year and it is not by chance that so many injuries appear," he said.

"On top of that, we compete against the best teams in the world."

Argentina defied the odds to notch their first ever win over the All Blacks in Sydney last year, but since that 25-10 victory have lost to the New Zealanders 38-0 and 39-0.

- 'Dangerous' Pumas

New Zealand have also made extensive changes but coach Ian Foster has the luxury of experimenting from a position of strength at the top of the tournament table.

He has also picked an inexperienced Test fly-half in Damian McKenzie, although the versatile back has regularly filled the role for Super Rugby's Waikato Chiefs.

McKenzie was relishing the prospect of linking up with fullback Jordie Barrett and centre Quinn Tupea.

"Jordie plays what's in front of him, he plays off the cuff and he's very optimistic with his play, so it's great to be able to play alongside him," he said.

"I'm really excited to pair up with Jordie and obviously a lot of the other backs -- we've got Quinn outside me, who I've played a bit with at the start of the year (with the Chiefs).

"Hopefully we can play some free-flowing footy."

Captain Ardie Savea said he expected a fierce physical challenge from Argentina and the All Blacks had to respond in kind.

"It's about backing up. If we turn up thinking the same performance we did last week will be enough, we're kidding ourselves," he said.

"We know the Argie boys are a wounded beast and they're dangerous right now, so it we don't turn up it could be a long day."

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