No matter who plays, expectations will be high - Hansen

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Lynn McConnell     04 Sep 2017     Getty Images

That was the word from coach Steve Hansen in New Plymouth on Monday ahead of Saturday's first Test with Argentina at Yarrow Stadium.
With the need to look after his players through an extensive travel programme this year, Hansen said they would have to be wise with their selections, something compounded with Ben Smith's absence on sabbatical and Owen Franks' absence through injury.

It wouldn't be fair to say any changes in selection were experimental, he said, because anyone who put the All Blacks jersey on was a good player.

"It doesn't matter who plays, the expectation is that we play well. That won't change."

Hansen did say there was still pressure on the All Blacks to get their preparation from Sunday to Fridays right. They needed to avoid complacency or getting too comfortable with their success.

Australia had shown in the second Bledisloe Cup game when they had their backs to the wall and nowhere to go what they could produce and that was a good reminder to the side.

He said Nehe Milner-Skudder was enjoying being back with the squad, was excited and was looking for match time.

Argentina would probably be disappointed with their performances in the Championship to date, but some of that was probably due to the improvement seen in South Africa, he said.

"South Africa, I think, have been really good this year," he said.

The Argentinians were in their second year of Super Rugby and had done a lot of travelling and Hansen believed that had a lot of effect. But being back in the Championship they had a chance to regroup without having to do so much travelling.

They had always been strong up front, and that was something they reverted to under pressure, but they had also been attempting to develop their running game at both Super Rugby and Test level.

"They're in the middle stages of trying to change who they are and how they operate," he said.

Waisake Naholo was ruled out after suffering a head knock playing for Taranaki in Mitre 10 Cup at the weekend but flanker Sam Cane, second five-eighths Ryan Crotty and prop Wyatt Crockett will be available after passing their protocols.

Hansen said Auckland loose forward Blake Gibson had joined the squad, originally as cover if Cane wasn't right but now that he was the selectors would take the chance to have a look at him.

Prop Owen Franks is to have an operation on his Achilles tendon injury on Friday.