Wellington – Inspirational Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has been cleared to play against the All Blacks on Saturday in one of four changes to Los Pumas for the third-round Rugby Championship Test.
Lobbe, who had been sidelined by a calf injury which kept him out of the back-to-back losses to South Africa in the first two rounds, takes over the captaincy to the clear relief of his team.
“He's a great player,” scrumhalf Martin Landajo said of the Toulon-based loose forward.
“He's a leader for us. It's important for us and the younger players. When he's on the field it's much easier for us.”
Lobbe will start on the side of the scrum. Juan Manuel Leguizamon will move to the back row in place of Leonardo Senatore, who is serving a nine-week suspension for biting in last week's 17-22 loss to the Springboks in Mendoza.
Flanker Pablo Matera, who was cleared of an eye-gouging charge in the same Test, retains his place in the pack.
The other changes to Argentina see Manuel Carizza start at lock in place of Mariano Galarzo and Santiago Fernandez come in for centre Felipe Contepomi.
The 83-Test veteran Contepomi, who captained Argentina in Lobbe's absence, has been named on the bench.
Argentina, who now have former All Blacks World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry as their technical director, have never beaten New Zealand in 16 Tests.
They have lost 15 times and their best result, a 21-all draw, was 28 years ago.
Argentina (15-1): Juan Martin Hernandez, Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Horacio Agulla; Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe; Julio Farias Cabello, Manuel Carizza; Juan Figallo, Eusebio Guinazu, Marcos Ayerza. Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Lobo, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Mariano Galarza, Benjamin Macome, Tomas Cubelli, Felipe Contepomi, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino. – Sapa-AFP