Read expecting stiff test from Pumas


New Zealand will be heavy favourites to make it three wins out of three in the Rugby Championship this weekend, but skipper Kieran Read is not underestimating the threat posed by Argentina.

The All Blacks have begun this year's tournament with two emphatic victories over Australia and are unbeaten in 22 meetings against Argentina, a solitary draw in 1985 the only blemish in an otherwise perfect record.

However, after failing to win any of their first 17 matches following their introduction to the Rugby Championship, Argentina have won three of their last six - including a thrilling 26-24 triumph over South Africa last time out.

Ahead of Saturday's fixture in Hamilton, Read said of the World Cup semi-finalists: "They're certainly playing better footy and are a better side than when they first came in.

"I guess a lot of that team has played for the Jaguares [in Super Rugby] all this year, so the combinations are strong. They're a quality side, right up there in world rugby.

"They've got two sides to them, they love the flair and to throw the ball around and offload. And also we look at their strength, which is the scrum and lineout, so it's a full package.

"We expect a pretty tough game up front so our big boys are going to have to really step up."

The world champions have recalled Ryan Crotty at inside centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown dropping to the bench.

Argentina will be without influential loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon, who has failed to shake off a thigh injury. Manuel Montero and Tomas Lavanini are also absent, with Javier Ortega Desio, Matias Moroni and Guido Petti the men brought in by coach Daniel Hourcade.

Highly-rated teenage back-row Marcos Kremer is in line to make his international debut as a replacement, having impressed in Super Rugby this year for Jaguares.

Hourcade said: "We know we have to do things very well because we will be facing a team with very few weaknesses. It motivates us to face a team of this level."

"Our goal is to win," added Joaquin Tuculet. "It is undoubtedly the most difficult opponent, but we have great players and can play a great match."