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NZ midfielders plotting Pumas downfall

NZN 7/09/2016 By Angelo Risso

Every so often, Ryan Crotty sits down with his fellow All Blacks midfielders for a chat over a nice cup of green tea.

They discuss their roles for upcoming matches, the difficulties they'll face and how they can make their partnerships stronger.

It's a bit of an exclusive club, according to the Crusaders second-five.

But the group does occasionally reach out to other All Blacks for a brainstorming session.

"We might ask the No.10s what they need from us in a particular week, or we might go to them," Crotty said.

The 27-year-old has been reinstated into the starting XV for Saturday's Rugby Championship match against Argentina after recovering from concussion.

He slots back in for young gun Anton Lienert-Brown, who will take a spot on the bench after impressing in the side's Bledisloe-clinching win in Wellington a fortnight ago.

Crotty, who has pulled on the black jumper 19 times, was looking forward to resuming his nascent midfield partnership with Malakai Fekitoa.

"He's pretty exciting to play alongside so it's just about building that combination, being able to read each other out there on the field," Crotty said.

Crotty's inclusion at No.12 is the only change to coach Steve Hansen's starting XV against Los Pumas, with only two other tweaks to his bench.

Crusaders teammates Codie Taylor and Luke Romano have both been elevated into the matchday squad and will start from the pine.

Hansen said his decision to stick with the status quo was made with a view to the long term.

"Giving them the opportunity to keep rolling and driving things is a better reward than giving an individual some game time."

The All Blacks have played dazzlingly quick rugby in 2016, wiping the floor with Wales in June and coasting to a 14th consecutive Bledisloe Cup over Australia.

Yet Hansen still felt the side could shift to a higher gear.

They had played relatively little together following the post-World Cup retirement of several Kiwi veterans and needed to cultivate more Test experience.

"When you cut down the big trees, the little trees tend to get the sunlight and grow, and that's what has happened," Hansen said.

Argentina have named three changes to the starting XV that surprised the Springboks in Salta two weeks ago, with tight forward Guido Petti and openside Javier Ortega Desio introduced to the fold.

Winger Matthias Moroni has also replaced the injured Manuel Montero.

The All Blacks have never lost to Argentina, winning on 21 occasions and drawing once, but wouldn't be taking the match for granted.

Hansen was impressed by Los Pumas' new found sense of purpose with the ball.

"They've always been very combative up front but I've always thought they've had really talented backs and probably haven't used them as much as that talent warrants," Hansen said.

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