Simple mantra for the All Blacks in opening Test of 2023
Doing the basics well will be the mantra for the All Blacks heading into their first game of the season, their Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship game against Argentina in Mendoza on Sunday (NZT).
First five-eighths Damian McKenzie said it was about nailing each moment as a team, doing their roles well and building on the work they had put in to achieve their selection for the Championship.
The All Blacks knew they had not always been the best starters in their seasons, so that was behind their desire to be careful against a side they rated highly.
McKenzie said he didn't expect to be selected to start at first five-eighths but was excited to have the chance, especially with Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett having been in good form.
"I've had a bit of game time this year with the Chiefs so to get this opportunity is great."
He felt since he first played in the position for the All Blacks, his game had matured.
"I probably used to run myself into trouble a bit and put the team under a bit of pressure. I've learnt that kicking is a big part of being a playmaker and having that experience this year with the Chiefs has been great so my game has matured a lot more than in the past."
McKenzie said the opportunity allowed him to play his game and fit in with the game plan while retaining some of the spontaneous qualities he had shown all year.
He will be on goal-kicking duty for the side in the game.
Second five-eighths Jordie Barrett said it would be the first time they have been paired, but they know each other so well that it was exciting.
"We've had a great week this week, and we're looking forward to what Argentina will throw at us.
"Argentina are a world-class side, and we shared the spoils with them last year, one game apiece. They are one of the best defensive sides in world rugby. You've got to hold the ball for a long period of time, and they dominate those physical battles.
"They are very good on the ground at the breakdown from one to 15. They make you earn everything you want to get. It's going to be tough.
"Every year, they get better and better. They showed in the past three or four years, they've had our number a couple of times. We hold the Argentinians in the highest respect, and we are treating them no differently this week. They're at home, a tough beast to play.
"You can't highlight one area that they're good at, they're strong defensively, outstanding set piece, physical and then they've got some electric backs and a lot of guys who are playing all over the world and who bring back a lot of strategy and some moves that are hard to defend."
Playing at second five-eighths, Barrett said the position demanded the little things were done well and consistently, and doing that would go a long way towards winning a Test match.
Barrett understood there was a lot of interest in the Rugby World Cup, but with only five Tests before that event, there was no bigger game than they would play on Sunday.
McKenzie said Chiefs teammate wing Emoni Narawa deserved his debut after an outstanding Super Rugby season, and he was excited for him.
"He's a guy who plays off his instincts and I'm excited to see what he can do this weekend."
MATCH DETAILS: All Blacks v Argentina, Sunday July 9, 7.10am NZT, Estadio Malvinas, Mendoza, Argentina. Live on Sky Sport NZ.
Team to take on Argentina in Mendoza pic.twitter.com/bihFPDrDIm— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 6, 2023