Craig Dowd
Israel Dagg has chance to rescue Test career
Craig Dowd
July 15, 2015
A long run with injury has left Israel Dagg under pressure at Test level © Getty Images

It's going to be a test of New Zealand's mindset when they play Argentina in Christchurch on Friday . I'm sure the selectors will have said the effort against Samoa wasn't good enough, and they need to make a statement and start to build towards the Rugby World Cup and the starting point for that is Christchurch.

The word is this is the last Test match in Christchurch for Dan Carter and Richie McCaw. Quite frankly, who cares? I'm not into that. It's an All Blacks Test match and the sentiment of a last match doesn't wash with me. They celebrated their last game for the Crusaders. They are going to the World Cup, and every game they play could be their last game.

This game on Friday is about the All Blacks, and it's a Test match against Argentina - I'm over celebrating the last game here or the last game there.

The squad

Israel Dagg: It's the biggest game of his career because it is to save his career, and it is probably the last chance he'll receive from the selectors to show how good he is. He needs a big one.

Waisake Naholo: It's his debut and the suggestions are this guy is going to be around for a while. He's going to be a big name and he can go out there and absolutely claim that jersey for his own.

Ma'a Nonu: Sonny Bill Williams' presence just brings out the best in Nonu whether he's playing against Sonny Bill or whatever. Whenever Sonny Bill is available for selection Ma'a Nonu just steps up to the plate. It's going to be interesting to see how they work together.

Sonny Bill Williams: I think he needs a big game. His form doesn't match his pay packet at the moment. His potential is there - he just needs to bring it out. He's probably got one foot on the plane to go to the World Cup but he needs to justify his selection. I haven't seen enough of him this year and we need to see more.

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams on the tear, Samoa v New Zealand, Apia Stadium, Samoa, July 8, 2015
Sonny Bill Williams is under pressure to perform © Getty Images

Charles Piutau: He is in a similar boat to Israel Dagg. He's on thin ice and there's a lot of competition for those positions; so he needs a big game to show that form of 2014.

Dan Carter: Every time he takes the field he gets to shut the critics up - that's just the stage of his career that he is at. Realistically he just needs time in the saddle and he'll go well. It will be interesting to see if the wider field at AMI Stadium will show his subtleties to better effect, certainly better than the narrow pitch in Apia.

TJ Perenara: He's clearly the No.2 half-back and he needs to put pressure on Aaron Smith; that will be great for the All Blacks. It's good to see him getting a Test start which is reward for how much he has improved.

Kieran Read: Two words: The Man. He is the man; he's back at No.8 which is good and he'll only get better.

Richie McCaw: He just looks better in black. He puts the black jersey on and goes well. I'm sure he won't be concerned with the fact it is his last game in Christchurch.

Jerome Kaino: He's back with Reid and McCaw, arguably, the best loose forward trio in world rugby. He probably needs to play a wee bit better than what he did in Apia and to recapture some of his best form which we know and respect.

All Black Brodie Retallick, October 26, 2014
Brodie Retallick returns to the starting team this week © Getty Images

Brodie Retallick: Again, two words: world's best. He's head and shoulders above everyone else and it's great to see him there.

Luke Romano: He needs to repay some of the confidence the selectors have shown in him. He's clearly been given more game time to prove to them that he can justify his selection because he had time off. He needs to start recapturing that form from a couple of years ago. He has had a bad injury run, so the more games he has the better he will get.

Owen Franks: He's been creaking for a while. He needs a big game. Two years ago he would have been up there with the world's best tightheads but at the moment he just sits in the pack making up the numbers. He needs to take a step up because players like Nepo Laulala will put pressure on him and then, if Charlie Faumuina comes back, the No.3 jersey is wide open.

Keven Mealamu: Just has to concentrate on his core role. There's a lot of focus on his age and all the rest of it but if he gets his scrumming and lineout working it doesn't matter how old he is, he will go about his business.

Tony Woodcock: Wyatt Crockett is putting pressure on him and, again, just because someone has been there a long time now it means nothing unless he justifies why he is there.

Tony Woodcock needs a big game if he's to remain New Zealand's first-choice loose-head © Getty Images

Replacements: It's great to see Codie Taylor and Nepo Laulala, two young guys in the reserves. It's clear the selectors are building for a Rugby World Cup but they also have an eye beyond that. We need to look at young guys and we need to give them an opportunity.

Of the others on the bench, Andy Ellis has probably got one foot on the plane as well with the three half-backs. If he gets the opportunity he probably needs to speed up the game a little bit from what we saw in Samoa. So there are positives and negatives throughout the team. Everyone has got a reason to play. For some of them it is for their selection in the future and for others it is to get better in that environment.

As for the Pumas? I don't think they'll be good enough. At home, with the All Blacks coming off a performance that wasn't up to their standard, I think a second run-out with some of the incumbents back will see a much better effort. I think they will be way too good for Argentina. On a good day for the All Blacks, I don't think there is any team in the world that can match them. When the All Blacks lose a Test match it is because they don't play to their potential.

Collectively, when they go out as a team and play the style they want to play there are not many teams who can match them.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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