What the All Blacks will want out of Pumas 'banana skin'

Sam Cane gives instructions during an All Blacks training session Hannah Peters/Getty Images

I think the All Blacks-Pumas game at the weekend is going to be a nail-biter. I think we're going to be in for a real contest.

Argentina are on a complete roll; they've got momentum that should carry over from the Jaguares' trip to the Super Rugby final, and with the Test being played in Buenos Aires, there will be huge emotion for the Pumas.

The Pumas staff will have been targeting this game and honing a game plan to take down the world champions.

Pressure of adversity

The All Blacks haven't had the benefit of the majority of their squad playing together through Super Rugby. It is New Zealand's first game of the season, so bringing combinations together could take some time.

The entire squad's not there either, so as a result you would expect there to be a lack of cohesion; they will all need to buy into the game plan they are going to adopt.

This is a real banana-skin Test for the All Blacks but I'm sure they are well aware of that. Having gone to Argentina early, they'll be getting a taste of the hostile environment they will face come the weekend.

This is, I guess, step one of the long road of 2019.

Set-piece and defence

I suppose one thing the All Blacks management can analyse is the way the Jaguares played in Super Rugby. They will have worked out where to target the Pumas as a result and obviously the scrum will be one huge factor the All Blacks this weekend.

If I was one of the coaches, I would be looking at the approach the Crusaders took in winning the Super Rugby final against the Jaguares. Part of what they did was give the Jaguares the ball and forced them into errors with their relentless defence and breakdown pressure. They Crusaders capitalised on the one true try-scoring chance that came their way and kicked their penalty goals around that.

The Crusaders' defence was a big part of that final and I think Steve Hansen is smart enough to take what he thinks he needs out of that game and what he can implement from it in the All Blacks.

Selection of the side to carry out the intended plan will be interesting. Getting a foundation, especially with so many key players absent, is really important in this game.

The razz-a-ma-tazz, the scoring of tries, will be secondary. The two key components are the set-piece and defence. I would want dominance at scrum time; I would the All Blacks to win their own lineout ball and win it cleanly.

Getting the defensive structure set up for how the All Blacks are going to defend in 2019 will be a must. In areas like attack and other parts of the game, guys are good enough to adapt and 90 percent of attack is based off reaction play. The really important thing is the structure - what you can control and what can be coached.

Set-piece is something that can be coached and defence is about a system that everyone has to buy into. So that is absolutely crucial.

New scrum laws

I don't see the changed scrum laws that come into play this weekend as having a major impact on the All Blacks at all. From a safety perspective, yes, there is a bit of pressure on the neck before the engage, and knowing most players, they will probably put more pressure on than what they need.

The speed of the impact might bring back a little scrummaging. It will depend how referees enforce the post-engagement. Previously, the two packs had to go in together but now because there is no physical touch, the team that has more impetus on the impact can jockey for a better position.

Now whether the referee says he wants it kept steady or not; knowing how most players work they are not going to listen to that, they're going to want to get an advantage which I think is a good thing.

If you can gain an advantage by having a quicker engage it is something teams need to be aware of and work on but it will be a case of let's watch this space and see how it pans out.

With any law change it is usually the team that is quickest off the mark to use that to their advantage that is going to get the rub of the green. And usually the All Blacks are pretty good at working out things quicker than other teams.

In the old days the engage was pretty much 90 percent of the scrum. If you could win the engage you could dominate the scrum. By taking the gap away, right down to millimetres or inches, whatever it is now, it's not a huge gap; but if you can swing that in your favour it might just be that one or two percent that gives you that advantage.

If the All Blacks can come away happy with their defensive work, then they'll be the winners. Again, as I said earlier the Argentinian side won't be lacking emotion nor will they be lacking aggression. They also have the luxury of having combinations because of the time they have spent together, in many areas, this year.

What the All Blacks don't have at the start of the Championship is time together. With no June window as in earlier years, this is the first outing for them and that has traditionally been a factor in their performance. And the Pumas will know the All Blacks can be forced into errors.

World Cup selection insights

With Sam Cane captaining the side, there are some interesting prospects for the loose forward combination. Maybe they will look to play Ardie Savea at No.8 in Kieran Read's absence? The only thing they will lose is a bit of height in the lineout but they won't lack for mobility around the field.

It will be interesting to see if they are prepared to give Luke Jacobson a crack on the blindside of the scrum. A lot of the time the enthusiasm a young Test debutant provides adds to the performance of the side.

The All Blacks management have come out and said the priorities are the World Cup and the Bledisloe Cup, with the Rugby Championship third and that means they see the Championship as preparation for those two others, especially the World Cup.

So giving guys a crack in what is going to be a red-hot environment will mean there is no better test for them. Whatever team they put out there is going to be there with the World Cup in mind.

They might also be inclined to give Brad Weber a crack, probably off the bench, at halfback. It would be good to see him get some game time. With Sonny Bill Williams having to pass a fitness test it could be that Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown are paired in midfield with Braydon Ennor available off the bench.

It will be interesting to see if they are prepared to give Sevu Reece a go on the wing alongside Rieko Ioane, while Ben Smith will be at fullback; Smith would add some leadership back-up for Cane.

Whatever the choices, there is likely to be a fresh-faced look to the side supplemented by a bit of experience. I am sure it will show that you can take the Crusaders out of the side and still put a really good starting XV out there.