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Smith's play too good to refuse

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Lynn McConnell     14 Aug 2014     Getty Images

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said on Thursday before the side left for Australia that both players were 'really good' in the air and at putting people into space but Smith had been superior in his ability to run the ball back.

It was not a case of Dagg having lost form. Rather it was an instance where Smith had come in when Dagg was injured and taken the role to another level.

"That's the challenge now for Izzy [Dagg], he's got to lift his game from where it was, and it has been a really, really high standard. I don't think he's ever played a bad game for the All Blacks but we wouldn't be doing our job right for the team if we didn't pick Ben on his performances in the last two Tests which were sensational," he said.

Hansen said Jerome Kaino was always going to play at blindside flanker because he had been playing so well.

Liam Messam had borne a heavy load during the Super Rugby season and the selectors wanted him to have a month or so where they could get some work into him while he didn't have the added pressure of building up to a game.

He didn't get too many opportunities for that sort of window, and with the prospect of not too much of a break between the end of the international season in November and the start of what was likely to be another long Super Rugby season next year, it was felt advisable to lessen the pressure for him at the moment.

"We've taken that opportunity. He understands why we are doing it, and the need to do it, and we're happy we've done it because we've now got a guy who's starting to bounce and is jumping out of his skin again and come next week he'll be considered for selection," he said.

When players were performing week in and week out at a high level there was a need at some point to recharge the batteries.

"Most contact sports outside of rugby union have 16 weeks where they get an opportunity to play their last game before they play their next one and rugby doesn't have that. If you are not getting your breaks in your Super team we have got to find ways to recharge the batteries," Hansen said.

As regards the Australian choice of Kurtley Beale at first five-eighths, Hansen said he was dumbfounded by the choice initially. There could be several reasons and they included coach Ewen McKenzie not being certain Bernard Foley could do what he wanted against the All Blacks or the fact that Beale was being pursued by rugby league which could have led to a directive from the Australian Rugby Union that he had to be picked.

But whatever the reason Hansen said both were very good with Beale a player who liked to do things differently with a penchant for inside balls in second and third phase play.

"The Aussies are never predictable, but the one thing you do know about them is they are tough and they like to run the ball," he said.