Friday 15 December 2017

Barrett and Harris under the microscope for All Blacks

New Zealand All Blacks' Beauden Barrett
New Zealand All Blacks' Beauden Barrett

New Zealand can seal their third successive Rugby Championship title with a bonus-point win against the Pumas in La Plata tonight but the long-term focus will be on the performances of out-half Beauden Barrett and rookie hooker Nathan Harris.

Steve Hansen's side lead the tournament on 16 points with South Africa and Australia, who meet earlier, on 10 apiece.

An extra-point win by scoring four or more tries, something the All Blacks have accomplished in their two previous clashes in Argentina, will ensure they clinch the title before their final showdown against the Springboks on October 4.

The long-term focus, however, will be on the performance of Barrett and whether Harris makes his test debut off the bench after veteran Keven Mealamu moved into the starting XV.

Barrett will make just his second start in the pivotal role, three weeks after his first - also against the Pumas - where he impressed generally but had a poor goalkicking performance.

The 23-year-old missed four shots at goal in Napier and had been expected to again back up Aaron Cruden before the Waikato Chiefs playmaker was dumped for the final two matches after he missed the flight to Argentina following a night out drinking.

Argentina v New Zealand, live,

Sky Sports 3, 11.10pm

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