- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

LONDON (AP) - Winning the breakdowns is going to be decisive to winning this Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand made that clear for a second straight test, and its first at this Cup, when it did not pick a specialist lock in the reserves for the pool match against Argentina at Wembley on Sunday.

Jerome Kaino, the best blindside flanker at the 2011 Cup, will start in his usual No. 6 spot but also cover the second row. That’s allowed the All Blacks to select flankers Victor Vito and Sam Cane in the reserves. If Kaino can play the last quarter of games at lock, then the All Blacks can utilize four loose forwards against tired teams and boost their chances in the all-important fight for tackle ball.

That advantage may not be a luxury in the knockout rounds, when the packs are bigger and meaner, but the All Blacks are willing to ride it in the pool games and see how it goes.

So far, it’s proved successful.

Kaino made the coaches give the idea serious thought last year in South Africa, where lock Brodie Retallick was concussed and couldn’t play, and it was too late to fly in a specialist replacement. Kaino started and flanker Steven Luatua was on the bench, both covering the locks. Kaino filled in at lock briefly, and proved his considerable lineout jumping expertise was backed up with a hefty push in the scrums.

The All Blacks decided to try it again for their last run, the Bledisloe Cup decider against Australia at Eden Park a month ago. Kaino played the last 13 minutes as a lock and didn’t compromise the set pieces. In fact, he did well enough to convince the selectors to choose their Rugby World Cup squad with only three locks and six loose forwards.

Kaino, capped 60 times, made it easier by being amenable to playing out of position. He was willing to play anywhere for New Zealand, and change his mindset, and add a string to his bow.

Before the All Blacks left New Zealand, he had a run at lock for an hour in a practice match, put his head “in some dark places,” and described it afterward as not being hard, but definitely different. Scrum coach Mike Cron said they’d been passing on some of “the dark arts” of scrummaging to Kaino.

The advice will be gold against an Argentina team renowned for its scrum.

“We’ve seen a fair bit of them in the last few years, and if you’re not on your game, they can make it a tough old day,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said. “They’ve shown in the last couple of outings against the Springboks that they’ve got the ability. It makes for a bit of edge in the first game.”

Here’s a look at Sunday’s games:

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SAMOA vs UNITED STATES (4-0 overall, 1-0 in RWC), Brighton, 1100 GMT

Samoa has won all four previous contests, but never by more than seven points. They won the most recent test between them 21-16 in July in San Jose, but went scoreless in the second half while the U.S. scored 13.

WALES vs URUGUAY (0-0 overall, 0-0 in RWC), Cardiff, 1330 GMT

If it’s a jump into the unknown for Wales, which will meet Uruguay for the first time, it is for the South Americans, too. None of Uruguay’s 31-man squad has played in a Rugby World Cup. Only coach Pablo Lemoine has experience, having appeared in the team’s two previous appearances, in 1999 and 2003. Neither have the Teros, as they’re known, beaten a Tier One team - their win-loss record is 0-48, 40 of them to Argentina.

NEW ZEALAND vs ARGENTINA (20-1-0 overall, 2-0 in RWC) Wembley, 1545 GMT

When last these teams met, New Zealand won handily, 39-18 on a wet, cold July night in Christchurch. But with the result well in hand, the Pumas surprised the All Blacks in mid second half by scoring two rolling maul tries off lineout drives. Both went to hooker and captain Agustin Creevy, the first forward in 18 years to bag two tries against New Zealand.

The failure by the All Blacks to stop the mauls would have been picked up by teams all over the world, but they have managed not to concede another against the Springboks and Wallabies. That’s after Argentina woke them up to how best to handle the maul, a favorite tactic not just of the Pumas, but of northern hemisphere teams.

Now the All Blacks get to apply their tactics against the team that jolted them, and bolstered by a world-record 1,013 caps up their sleeve. They will be the first team to put out a side with more than a thousand test caps.

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