Crotty returns to All Blacks in Rugby Championship
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Ryan Crotty will return from injury in midfield in the only change to the All Blacks' starting lineup for Saturday's Rugby Championship test against Argentina in Hamilton.
Crotty missed New Zealand's second Bledisloe Cup test against Australia, won 29-9, after suffering a minor head injury in its previous 42-8 win over the Wallabies in Sydney.
The reinstatement of Crotty's midfield partnership with Malakai Fekitoa displaces Anton Lienert-Brown who made a strong test debut at inside center as Crotty's replacement in the test at Wellington two weeks ago.
Lienert-Brown drops to the reserve bench, displacing Seta Tamanivalu, while hooker Codie Taylor joins the bench in place of James Parsons and lock Luke Romano returns in place of Liam Squire.
Head coach Steve Hansen said the selection reflected the All Blacks' desire to maintain consistency as they rebuild after last year's Rugby World Cup.
''The squad is five games into re-establishing themselves on the international stage and we felt that it would not be right to make a lot of changes,'' Hansen said.
Hansen said the All Blacks would face ''a completely different challenge'' from Argentina than it had from Australia. The Pumas have never beaten the All Blacks in 22 tests but are coming off a confidence-boosting 26-24 win over South Africa.
''Argentina will bring their traditional physicality up front and flair in the backs and we will have to be ready for whatever they throw at us,'' he said.
''They have shown in their time in the Rugby Championship and especially in their two recent tests against South Africa that they are a very good side and will bring their own unique challenges.
''We have worked hard during the early part of the week on getting reconnected as a group, getting the understanding of our roles cemented and getting our mental attitude right. We'll need to be right on top of our game both mentally and physically and play the game with real accuracy if we are to prevail on Saturday.''
Captain Kieran Read will play his 90th test on Saturday while prop Owen Franks will play his 83rd, joining hooker at 10th place on the New Zealand list of test appearances. If Franks doesn't score he will equal Italian prop Salvatore Perugini's record of most tests without scoring a try.
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody.
Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Ardie Savea, T.J. Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Anton Lienert-Brown.