Steve Hansen Names All Blacks Wider Training Group for DHL Lions Series

Blues v British & Irish Lions
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Last Word on Rugby, by Scott Hornell.

The presure is now on, as Steve Hansen names his All Blacks ‘wider training group’ for the DHL Lions Series.  The selected 33 men will be challenged to hold-up the aura of the New Zealand team, and the New Zealand (NZ) rugby public’s expectation.

That factor will weigh heavy on Steve Hansen, the head coach and selector–but also on the group. They begin with Hansen, but as he will tell you ‘I am only a part of a bigger thing’. The All Blacks coach is directing the approach but it will be his collection of troops that ‘do the business out on the field’.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Firstly, on behalf of the All Blacks, the selectors would like to congratulate all players selected for the DHL New Zealand Lions Series, especially the new All Blacks.

Steve Hansen Names All Blacks Wider Training Group

“Obviously, it’s a very special occasion for the Barrett and Laumape families, with Jordie and Ngani being selected for the first time. Jordie has been in outstanding form, he has a skillset which is complete and has a great running and kicking game. Ngani too has been impressive throughout the Super season and has forced his way in through commanding performances,” Hansen said.

The opposition squad consists of 41 men, plus it’s large entourage of management and administration. Moving around the country in precision, they will have focused hard of the wider training groups list of players–as would four million Kiwi fans.

Two new names are added to the group, with Ngani Laumape’s impressive form seeing his inclusion, and the wonderful talent of Jordie Barrett written in pen [previously as an Apprentice].

All Black Forwards:

Hookers
Dane Coles (Wellington, 49)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury, 15)
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, 4)
Props
Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, 58)
Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, 46)
Owen Franks (Canterbury, 90)
Joe Moody (Canterbury, 24)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Auckland, 4)
Locks
Scott Barrett (Taranaki, 4)
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay, 60)
Luke Romano (Canterbury, 26)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 84)
Loose Forwards
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 40)
Jerome Kaino (Auckland, 74)
Kieran Read, captain (Counties Manukau, 97)
Ardie Savea (Wellington, 12)
Liam Squire (Tasman, 8)

All Black Back Line:

Halfbacks
Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato, 25)
TJ Perenara (Wellington, 29)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 58)

First five-eighths
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 49)
Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, 47)
Lima Sopoaga (Southland, 6)

Midfielders
Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, 26)
Ngani Laumape (Manawatu, uncapped)
Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato, 9)
Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau, 33)

Super Rugby Rd 8 - Blues v Hurricanes
Ngani Laumape of the Hurricanes makes a break during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Highlanders at Eden Park on April 15, 2017. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Outside backs
Jordie Barrett (Taranaki, uncapped)
Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay, 61)
Rieko Ioane (Auckland, 2)
Waisake Naholo (Taranaki, 12)
Julian Savea (Wellington, 52)
Ben Smith (Otago, 60)

The selectors have also named the following five players as injury cover: midfielder Jack Goodhue, hooker Liam Coltman and loose forwards Matt Todd, Vaea Fifita and Akira Ioane.

Last Word on Rugby congratulate all the players on their selection.

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Head coach Steve Hansen will assemble this group in Auckland over the next few days, aiming to be aware of player fitness, strengths and weaknesses (if any) and the management will start the analysis of the team. Some come in with cuts and abrasions from Super Rugby and some have already faced the Lions.

Debriefing Players on the British and Irish Lions

More than ever today, players gauge the opposition from metrics, from data collected on a USB stick. Players maybe able to view this as groups, or hubs of players –tight forwards, loosies, centres, outside backs and the attack and defensive teams. That information, or Intellectual Property is primary to knowing who you are playing; even if the teams do not face each other until June 24.

The first test is a long way away, so debriefing players who have faced them is critical. Steve Hansen and his coaching group have watched every minute of every tour game so far. They were in Whangarei and Auckland,. Watching intently, and then they might well interview that teams players and coaches, to gain an insight and to use that IP to the All Blacks advasntage.

And the Lions are doing the same. Video analysis, player biographies, statistics and general discussion means that Aaron Smith will know both Connor Murray and Greig Laidlaw as well as he would Mitchell Drummond [Crusaders] or Augustine Pulu [Blues]. And throw together this wider training squad, and the conversation will be 90% rugby….5% social media and 5% laughter.

A Happy Team, is a Successful Team

Steve Hansen has mellowed in his role. Like Graham Henry before him, winning a Rugby World Cup will make you more satisfied and give you more confidence in your ability. That he will want as much laughter as players studying the opposition, is how they will measure success. Under the scrutiny of the rugby mad Kiwi public, it could be tiresome, so levity and stress-relief are just as important.

Diet and strength and conditioning come next. Player welfare is 100% today, so the men are given all the support physically, as they are mentally. And the thoughts of players can be understood in the reaction of Kieran Read in being named captain.

Kieran Read (captain) of New Zealand leads off the team during the The Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Quite possibly, Read will reach 100 caps for the All Blacks on July 8. If fit, he will begin the series but it is his rugby-fitness that is a question for Steve Hansen.

British and Irish Lions Watch All Blacks; Watching the Lions

A game of ‘cat and mouse’ has erupted. The respect for the opposition means that Warren Gatland will be watching his opposition, as Steve Hansen watches the Lions and Gatland. Not as such mind games entirely, but a psychological warfare is present. A deep respect, and one that Gatland and the Lions go out of their way to present–but still, they will now examine the All Blacks wider training squad. And will come up with an idea on how to beat them.

A big challenge. Huge actually, as the All Blacks are undefeated on Eden Park for more that 40 games. Not since 1994 have they tasted defeat, and it is a fortress that many have attempted to break. South Africa scored a draw, so would that result be good enough for the Lions?

Possibly, but with the firepower selected in this 2017 wider training squad, the Lions will need to defend more than the home team might.

“We’re excited by the uniqueness that comes with playing a Lions Series as it only comes around every 12 years.”

The ‘cats’ are the All Blacks. Sitting, watching the mouse [the Lions] criss-cross New Zealand on tour. Watching, planning, selecting and devising strategies. Steve Hansen was present for the stunning Blues victory, and would have seen the press gather on Gatland. It will be a position he can recall from his days in Wales.

And the world is watching too. The most anticipated test series of the last 12 years begins on June 24. And Last Word on Rugby cannot wait!!

“Main photo credit”