LONDON (Reuters) - New Zealand will field the most experienced ever XV in international history when they start their Rugby World Cup defense against Pool C rivals Argentina at Wembley on Sunday.
Steve Hansen’s side will feature 1,013 test caps in the starting line-up and a further 316 caps on the bench, when they square off against the toughest opposition in their group.
Richie McCaw will lead the All Blacks for the 143rd time while Tony Woodcock, who along with flyhalf Dan Carter is a also a test centurion, will equal Englishman Jason Leonard’s world record of 104 test starts at prop.
Eight of Hansen’s XV started the World Cup final four years ago when the All Blacks beat France 8-7.
“We’ve selected what we believe is a very strong team. We have the utmost respect for Argentina who we know a lot more about now because of their involvement in The Rugby Championship. But it also means they know a lot more about us,” Hansen said on Friday.
New Zealand are hoping to become the first team to successfully defend the World Cup after triumphing on home soil in 2011.
“No one’s done it before so it must be difficult. But it doesn’t mean to say it can’t happen,” Hansen told reporters.
Hansen said the All Blacks had learned from previous experiences to only take one game at a time, referring to the 2007 tournament when France knocked them out in the quarter-final stage for their worst ever finish.
“We learned in 2007 that if you look too far ahead, then you get back on a plane and go home. So we are only looking at Argentina at the moment.”
Since their triumph in 2011, New Zealand have lost just three of 47 tests, winning 42 and drawing two.
They have never lost to the Pumas in 21 meetings.
New Zealand: 1-Tony Woodcock, 2-Dane Coles, 3-Owen Franks, 4-Brodie Retallick, 5-Sam Whitelock, 6-Jerome Kaino, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 8-Kieran Read, 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Dan Carter, 11-Julian Savea, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 13-Conrad Smith, 14-Nehe Milner-Skudder, 15-Ben Smith
Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Victor Vito, 20-Sam Cane, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Beauden Barrett, 23-Sonny Bill Williams
Reporting by Justin Palmer and John Geddie; editing by Ed Osmond