WARE, England (Reuters) - New Zealand can expect a tougher test from Argentina in their World Cup opener on Sunday than in July when the All Blacks eased to a comfortable victory in Christchurch, Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade said.
The two favourites to progress from Pool C clash at Wembley and Hourcade said his side will offer more than they did when losing 39-18 in their opening Rugby Championship game.
“We only had a short time together, a short time to prepare. Many (Pumas) players came from Europe and were starting their season,” Hourcade told Reuters on Monday at the team’s base at Hanbury Manor hotel in leafy Hertfordshire, to the north of London.
“This team is in a different moment than in Christchurch.”
The All Blacks are favourites to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy and Hourcade said it made no difference playing them in their first group game, or at a later date.
“For us it is the same... doesn’t matter if it’s the first game or final group game. The All Blacks are always the All Blacks. They are the best team in the world.”
The Pumas have never beaten New Zealand but, his serious face giving way to a wry smile, Hourcade added: “No surprises...
“They cannot surprise you but they are the best.”
Following that Christchurch defeat, Argentina were brushed aside at home by Australia but then caused a shock that reverberated around the rugby world by beating South Africa in Durban.
Not only had the Pumas beaten the Springboks after 19 failed attempts but they also won away in the Championship for the first time since joining the expanded southern hemisphere tournament in 2012.
“We have shown by beating South Africa and Australia (in 2014) that we are developing and I continue to hope we keep making history,” Hourcade said.
Argentina memorably made the World Cup semi-finals in 2007 and were quarter-finalists four years ago before being beaten by the All Blacks.
Hourcade said a last eight place was a minimum requirement this time although his side would not overlook pool rivals Tonga, Georgia and Namibia.
Argentina skipper Agustin Creevy said the Pumas “had a good mix of experience and youth”.
“It’s a perfect combination. We are arriving at the tournament hungry (to do well),” he said...
“We all have a bond.”
editing by Alan Baldwin