All Blacks take long-term view in Sydney selections

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Lynn McConnell     17 Aug 2017     Getty Images

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen pointed out that in the last nine weeks of their season the All Blacks would go around the world twice and play seven Test matches with 10 time zone changes.


With that sort of programme it was necessary to have as many of the squad 'somewhat fresh' by the end of it all.

"We've got to manage them as well as win today," he said.

Hansen explained the non-selection of Israel Dagg was down to him being 'pretty fatigued' after the British & Irish Lions series and his knee was 'a little jammed up' and the selectors felt an extra week would be good for his recovery.

"He's not injured, he could have played if we had really wanted him to. But there's a long-term race and a short-term race and we have to consider that and we feel another week would be good for his body and mentally.

"That left us with the choice of who did we want to play on the wing. We were losing Daggy's aerial skills so that allowed us to put Bender [Ben Smith] there and that became a no-brainer to pick Damian [McKenzie]. He's been in great form and it's just been unfortunate that someone like Jordie Barrett has been ahead of him," he said.

Barrett's injury had opened the door for him and McKenzie was excited to have the chance.

The selection of Liam Squire on the blindside flank ahead of veteran Jerome Kaino was a chance for Squire to bring his energy to the side. He had been forced to sit and watch the Lions series due to his thumb injury but since returning he had been very physical and had played well in the game of three halves and deserved the opportunity.
There was also a need to have Kaino looked after in the long season.

Hansen acknowledged both the talent the Australians had available and also the preparation time they had enjoyed.

So far as he was concerned he would have liked to have seen some of the Australian franchises playing right through to the Super Rugby finals in order to reduce their preparation advantage.

"Those two things [talent and preparation time] make them a dangerous beast. The third thing that makes them really dangerous is their desire to try and help Australian rugby at a moment when it's got a bit of a cloud over it and they haven't won the Bledisloe for a long time. So they're pretty hungry for it," he said.

The All Blacks, as a team, would have to be hungrier than Australia, Hansen said.

It was a fact that the Cup would be lost at some time but players didn't want to be part of the team that did. But, at the same time, it was important that players were not burdened by the pressures to retain the trophy.

Saturday's Test was a chance to show what had been learned from the Lions series and for the All Blacks to recapture the level of performance they enjoyed previously.

The rivalry between Australia and New Zealand was good. There was a lot of support in New Zealand for Australian rugby because New Zealand needed Australia to be strong, Hansen said.