Hansen to explore backline options
Tue, 15 Oct 2013 08:21
We've always said we need to find another centre
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen looks set to use the final Bledisloe Cup Test to have a look at some different backline options.
Prolific wing Ben Smith will move to outside centre in place of Conrad Smith who is on holiday, with the experienced Cory Jane expected to take his place on the wing, whilst Hansen may also hand a start to impressive young flyhalf Beauden Barrett.
Jane has been sidelined since January after undergoing knee surgery, but Hansen is confident that he is fit enough to start against the Wallabies in Dunedin on Saturday.
"He wouldn't be here if we didn't think he was ready to start," the All Blacks coach told Fairfax NZ News.
Hansen went on to explain that Ben Smith has been viewed as a possible eventual replacement for Conrad Smith, and with Jane back in the mix they feel the time is right to give the Highlanders utility back an opportunity to show what he can do in the midfield.
"We've always said we need to find another centre," said Hansen. "Conrad has been the one and only for a long time and now's the time to do that. Ben's been the guy we've earmarked for a long time.
"We wanted him to really fill the jersey out and be comfortable in it. He's done that, and was probably the back of the Championship, if not the player of the Championship. He is in a rich vein of form, he's very confident and it's a good time to say 'right, let's have a look at this wee project'," he added.
The All Blacks coach was full of priase for the impact Barrett has made as a substitute, but would not confirm that he will start ahead of Aaron Cruden who suffered a knee injury in the victory over the Springboks at Ellis Park.
"He's played particularly well and he's closed out Test matches really well, so he's coming along nicely. We're really happy with what we've got at the moment but there is a but and the but is we've got to keep improving," he said.
Hansen said that after the high of going through the Rugby Championship unbeaten to retain their title, it is important for his team to maintain their standards in what is a dead rubber on Saturday.
"This team needs this game. This is an ideal game for us because if we want to make statements then this is an opportunity. We've come off a great win, everyone has given us a big pat on the back, and we've got two choices - either be like pigs in the mud and roll in it and say how good we are, or we can get back to work and say we're better than that and we want to improve our game," he said.
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