Tour will increase player depth for All Blacks

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Lynn McConnell     23 Oct 2017     Getty Images

Four new players, Asafo Aumua (hooker-Wellington), Tim Perry (prop-Tasman), Jack Goodhue (mid-field-Northland) and Matt Duffie (wing-North Harbour) have been named.
The team will make the tour without lock Brodie Retallick and coach Steve Hansen said there was no pressure from the All Blacks for him to return. It was a situation that the All Blacks respected and Retallick would return when he and his wife felt they were ready.

Hansen said there were three aims for the tour: to play attractive rugby, winning and continuing to establish, and re-establish, that process and to use the opportunity to expose new, younger players to different styles of rugby, different pressures of touring.

Achieving that would create more depth in the resource pool for the future and there was also a desire to enjoy the tour, taking the chance to experience the different cultures they came across by being ambassadors for New Zealand and for rugby.

Hansen said five players, Otago flanker Dillon Hunt, Waikato prop Atu Moli, Canterbury's halfback Mitch Drummond, first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga and lock Dominic Bird, who are in the Barbarians squad to play against the All Blacks on November 4, will then travel with the All Blacks to France for their game against a France XV in Lyon on Tuesday, November 14.

Being a mid-week game it was not possible to play Test players on the Saturday [France], Tuesday and Saturday [Scotland] that would be required, so those players would bolster the playing 23 on that occasion, Hansen said.

"We expect Scotland to be a really tough encounter and we want people to be as fresh as they can be," he said.

Six players have been given extra time off for family reasons and will not be involved in the Barbarians game. They are captain and No.8 Kieran Read, hooker Dane Coles, prop Wyatt Crockett, lock Sam Whitelock and mid-fielders Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams.

Duffie had impressed the selectors because he had good pace, was a good finisher, was good in the air, could play wing or fullback and had a sense of maturity about him that would fit in with what the All Blacks were trying to achieve.

"Mattie's had an interesting football career taking in both codes and he's done well coming in from the Stormers after a lot of injuries and I know they didn't want him to go, they rated him very highly.

"Over the last couple of years he's just grown and grown and has become very consistent," he said.

Backs coach Ian Foster said he had seen a lot of Duffie during Super Rugby with the Blues and had watched him train and study the game.

"He's a thinker and you could tell that he had a really good work ethic off the park, and you saw that on the park. We saw a player who looked really settled in the game, he made a big difference to the Blues and that back three looked calm and he looked pretty potent when he had the ball," he said.

The nature of the tour with two non-Tests allowed the opportunity to play someone like emerging Wellington hooker Asafo Aumua.

"We need four hookers and he's the obvious up and comer and rather than being an apprentice he gets to tour and play," Hansen said.

"He's pretty special, so we'll see where he goes."

Aumua would be developed the same as all young players coming into the game and how many chances he got would be determined by how ready he was.

"He seems to be a pretty mature young man, he's playing well at Mitre 10 level and he's done well in the Under-20s so he's got an opportunity now to spend some time with three good hookers and learn from them and he'll get a little bit of game time. The future is probably where his career will be but right now we'll get to know him."

Hansen said it was the 'positive, non-normal behaviour' that 20-year-old Aumua had exhibited with his dominating style that the selectors had rewarded.

Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow's selection when he is due to take up a northern hemisphere contract was down to there not being a clear alternative to him yet.

"He's a stand-out All Black and he's been very unlucky to have competed in the same era as Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara. He would have played a lot more Test matches. There's not a lot between those three," he said.

They would also have the best of both worlds by being able to see Augustine Pulu play for the Barbarians against Australia on Saturday and then Mitch Drummond, if selected, play for the Barbarians against the All Blacks a week later.

Tim Perry impressed with his scrummaging, his core skills were good and he had been around a long time and understood what was required.

Perry's selection also adds to the list of father-son All Blacks, as his father, Mid Canterbury hooker Grant Perry, was an All Black in 1980.