Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks captain Sam Cane expecting stern challenge from Argentina

Stand-in All Blacks captain Sam Cane is expecting a stern challenge from Argentina when the two teams meet in their Rugby Championship opener in  Buenos Aires on Sunday (NZ time). 

In Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock's absence, Cane will lead the All Blacks for the third time in his career, in what will be his first test match back since fracturing his neck against the Springboks last year in Pretoria. 

The 27-year-old will skipper a relatively inexperienced  All Blacks side, with 16 of the 23 players named having 35 caps of less to their name. Five players are set to make their debut including Sevu Reece on the right-wing, while prop Atu Moli, flanker Luke Jacobson, first-five Josh Ioane and outside back Braydon Ennor will come off the bench. 

For Argentina, they've named 13 Jaguares Super Rugby players in their starting side, with Stade Francais first-five Nicolas Sanchez and Saracens prop Juan Figallo are the only European-based players named by coach Mario Ledesma.

New Zealand have never lost in 28 meetings with Argentina, although the South Americans managed a 21-21 draw in 1985, and Cane is determined to ensure their unbeaten record is broken under his watch. 

"Anything can happen in test rugby. Records are made to be broken, but this is a record we're proud of and we will be striving to keep," he said. 

"We know in that first test of the year, there will be a wee bit of rust. It will be about how we respond to that when things aren't going quite right.

"We're wary of the threat Argentina poses and how motivated they'll be to start their 2019 season well." 

Cane added that he'd been impressed with the five uncapped players who will be using this test to make their case to Steven Hansen for why they should be on the plane to Japan for the Rugby World Cup. 

Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks captain Sam Cane expecting stern challenge from Argentina

The test at the Estadio José Amalfitani is the first of five games New Zealand will play before their World Cup defence begins against South Africa on September 21 in Yokohama. 

"It will be a very, very tough test match. We're excited, we've had a few new guys come in, and they've stepped up well.

"I've been impressed with the way they've trained this week, and it's exciting for them to get an opportunity. Then, there is a good opportunity for us to take real ownership of the team."

Cane also added some words of advice for the uncapped quintet.

"Do your best to treat it like another game. There will be huge excitement and nerves, but I want them to go out there and have real confidence in their ability and back themselves and play rugby."  

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