Round-up: Saint-André is wary of Argentina's progress


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The Independent Online

Philippe Saint-André, the France coach, is well aware that today's opponents Argentina have greatly benefited from their inclusion in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship, where they were far from embarrassed against South Africa, Australia or New Zealand.

France got their autumn campaign off to a fine start, beating the Wallabies 33-6, while Argentina won 26-12 against Wales. And Saint-André knows the South Americans will want to show that they are worthy of a place in rugby's elite circle. Argentina have won four of their last seven meetings with France, including twice at the 2007 World Cup.

"They are very tough to play against, in all of the rucks. They've also grown in maturity as an attacking team," Saint-André said. "They will cause us different types of problems than Australia did. The Argentines know us well; a lot of them play in the Top 14."

France have made one change to the side that beat Australia, with the lock Yoann Maestri replacing Jocelino Suta after recovering from a back problem.

The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen admitted it may be disappointing for Italian rugby fans to miss out on seeing New Zealand's marquee pair Richie McCaw and the fly-half Dan Carter today, but he insisted he must put the team's interests first. Kieran Read, the No 8, will deputise as New Zealand captain, with Sam Cane playing in McCaw's openside flanker position. Aaron Cruden will play at No 10. Julian Savea is the only player from the All Blacks' 51-22 win over Scotland last week to keep his place.

It is the first time Italy and New Zealand have met since 2009; the All Blacks have won every one of their past 11 encounters.

Hansen said of McCaw's and Carter's absences: "We are saying to ourselves, 'Here we are going to play this game without two of the greatest players of all time'; that in itself is a great challenge. Will they [Cruden and Cane] perform to the same level? Probably not but you wouldn't expect them to because they aren't in the same stage of their career. What you would expect is the other people around them to do a little bit more and they are capable of that, so we should be fine."