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All Blacks face selection dilemma as deadline approaches

New Zealand face some difficult selection issues ahead of the World Cup with two key areas yet to be...

The All Blacks perform the haka during their Tri-Nations match against South Africa at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on July 30, 2011. Picture: AFP

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New Zealand face some difficult selection issues ahead of the World Cup with

two key areas yet to be resolved less than a week before the All Blacks name

their final 30-man squad.

Next Tuesday, the All Blacks will reveal the

squad they hope can lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a first time since 1987 and

Saturday's Tri-Nations test against South Africa represents the last

chance for several fringe players to impress.

"Everyone in our squad is in contention,

but we can only pick 30 and some areas are difficult in terms of selection,

particularly the back three and the loose forwards," assistant coach Steve

Hansen told reporters on Wednesday.

New Zealand have started the season well with

wins over Fiji, South Africa and Australia but now face a dilemma over which

six players will fill the winger and full back positions for the hosts at the

Sept. 9-Oct. 23 tournament.

"All our back three have come into

excellent form at the same time but you can't fit nine into six, so three guys

are going to have to miss out, which is tremendously sad," Hansen added at

the Port Elizabeth news conference.

"There are some dead-set certainties and

we all know who they are, but for the others, we have to get the mix right,

players that will suit the tournament.

"The loose forwards fall into that area

and the back three, but it's not a bad problem to have."

The All Blacks forward coach did, however,

give hope to the players who do not make the initial 30-man squad, saying there

could still be chances for them to play in the World Cup.

"I just hope that once they are over the

initial disappointment they will keep working hard because there will be

opportunities once the World Cup starts due to injuries," the former Wales coach

added.

GREAT WEEK

New Zealand have left seven frontline

players behind for the South Africa leg of the Tri-Nations but Hansen said the

current squad had easily adapted to the absence of senior figures such as

regular captain Richie McCaw and flyhalf Dan Carter.

"There are a lot of senior guys that

are here and it's been an easy transformation thanks to the leadership of guys

like Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore," Hansen said.

"It's been a great week so far and

they've prepared as well as any team has over the last year. If we continue in

that vein, then we'll be in good shape."

South Africa

started the Tri-Nations with a 39-20 loss in Australia

and a 40-7 thrashing in New

Zealand, and despite fielding a stronger

side in a 14-9 defeat to the Wallabies last week, Hansen believes the

Springboks are improving.

"I don't think you can take into

account the first two tests because that wasn't this team playing," he

added.

"They decided to rest these guys,

rightfully after such a bruising Super rugby competition, and although they

looked short of a gallop last week, they're progressing well.

"They have run their own course and good

on them. The World Cup is the most important thing this year and they decided

early on that the Tri-Nations was not for them.

"They're now seeing if certain guys can

fit in around their more senior players. South Africa are one of the best

teams in the world and they will contend in the final stages of the World Cup.

"If they have a bit of luck and play

well, then they could go all the way."

Timeline

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