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...
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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
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."
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
"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."