Selectors check their back-up options

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Lynn McConnell     02 Aug 2017     Getty Images

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said there were new faces involved because they had the opportunities to bring them in while the Crusaders were away for the Investec Super Rugby final in South Africa.

"Rather than waste the opportunity we've seized it with both hands and brought people in that we want to find a little more about, other people that we think aren't far from getting in the squad.

"Atu Moli is a young tighthead prop and we've just lost Charlie [Faumuina] so we're looking to the future and it's a good opportunity for him to come in and work with someone like Mike Cron on the scrummaging side of his game and then, after the camp, we can know a little bit more about him," he said.

Kane Hames was a destructive scrummager who caused problems for opponents and he was a good player around the ground, who carried well, as he showed when playing in Sydney last year. And he was probably third in line behind Joe Moody and Wyatt Crockett.

Richard Buckman was a utility player and when thought was going into World Cups he could play in multiple positions along with Charlie Ngatai and others.

"We don't know a lot about him from a personal point of view. We've not had him in any of our camps before, we've seen him play and we've liked what we've seen," he said.

Centre Malakai Fekitoa hadn't been included in the camp but while he was still available until the end of the season it was felt he would be taking the place of someone they could learn more about, like Buckman.

Nothing had changed in the selectors' thinking when it came to players who were heading overseas. If there were two similar players the player who was staying would be the one selected, Hansen said.

Chiefs utility Damian McKenzie was being looked at as a first five-eighths.

"Damian [McKenzie] is a very, very good rugby player. We see him as someone who could do that role [coming off the bench at first five-eighths] once we've seen him play some more rugby at 10," he said.

There was no clear third first five-eighths at the moment behind Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga but they were aware Waikato were going to play McKenzie at first five-eighths while he was a good goal-kicker as well and he had been in fine form at fullback.

Looking at it from a World Cup perspective, Hansen said there could be value in giving McKenzie training time in order to be a prospective third halfback they could call on.

"He's got a big part to play in the All Blacks over the next few years, there's no doubt about that," he said.

They were also having another look at lock Dominic Bird. He was a big man, and maturing while Patrick Tuipulotu was also back, both of them players they have had in the past and who they are still watching.

During the camp they would be looking to work on mental skills and the skill sets that they don't get the time to work on during the heat of a campaign.

"We won't be doing a lot of normal Test-week training we'll be breaking it down and spending a lot of time with the specialist coaches taking the skills that we think are critical to our game being at the level we need it to be," he said.