‘All Blacks are well known for coming back strong after a defeat… they don’t experience a lot of them’

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SONNY BILL WILLIAMS is included in a much-changed New Zealand side to face Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams.

The centre is one of six new faces in the XV as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen freshens up a side that surprisingly lost at home to South Africa in Wellington last time out.

Williams – set to make his first appearance in this year’s tournament after overcoming a bout of tonsillitis – partners Ryan Crotty in midfield, while TJ Perenara starts his 50th Test at scrum-half as Aaron Smith drops to the bench.

Ben Smith moves to fullback to replace Jordie Barrett, who is left out of the matchday squad, so Waisake Naholo comes in on the wing.

In the pack, Ofa Tuungafasi takes over from the rested Owen Franks at tighthead prop and Shannon Frizell replaces the injured Liam Squire in a back row that sees Luke Whitelock start at number eight in the absence of captain Kieran Read.

Damian McKenzie has returned home due to a family bereavement but, along with skipper Read, who did not travel to Argentina, he will fly out to join the squad in South Africa ahead of the Test at Loftus Versfeld on October 6.

Source: AAP/PA Images

New Zealand remain on course to defend their Rugby Championship title, with a bonus-point win in Buenos Aires this weekend enough to clinch top spot with a game to spare, but Hansen expects to see a backlash after the world champions slipped up against the Springboks.

“All Blacks are well known for coming back reasonably strongly after a defeat,” Hansen said.

“They don’t experience a lot of them, or particularly this group haven’t anyway, and we had a really good session on Monday off the park and a lot of the lessons were talked about.

“The week so far on the training park seems to be showing us that they’ve gone up to another gear and (we’re) really looking forward to Saturday because it’s going to be a massive challenge.”

New Zealand

15. Ben Smith
14. Waisake Naholo
13. Ryan Crotty
12. Sonny Bill Williams
11. Rieko Ioane
10. Beauden Barrett
9. TJ Perenara

1. Karl Tu’inukuafe
2. Codie Taylor
3. Ofa Tuungafasi
4. Sam Whitelock (captain)
5. Scott Barrett
6. Shannon Frizell
7. Sam Cane
8. Luke Whitelock

16. Nathan Harris
17. Tim Perry
18. Angus Ta’avao
19. Patrick Tuipulotu
20. Ardie Savea
21. Aaron Smith
22. Richie Mo’unga
23. Anton Lienert-Brown

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