For the All Blacks head coaching role, it has to be accepted that it is a full-on position. Without saying it is a 12 month-long gig, leading up to the September Rugby World Cup, Steve Hansen is currently sitting back and ‘taking it all in’.
He is one of the most successful of the modern-rugby head coaches. A winning record close to 90%, which naturally adds pressure to maintain that performance. So in relation to his role as a selector, Hansen has to continually watch and measure his playing group – and any who maybe ‘knocking on the door’.
Never actually ‘sitting back’ to be truthful, he is more likely to be continually studying the current Super Rugby season. Watching matches, viewing specific players over 80 minutes and then gathering his research. Taking it all in, the role has to take his full commitment and in an interview with RadioSport’s The Country program, he revealed his mid-term report on the game.
He commented that watching so much rugby, he could see that “the guys that are established All Blacks, are coming into some form. And there’s a lot of young guys that are putting their hands up, so when the time comes to pick The Rugby Championship team, we’re gonna have plenty of candidates.
“Through that [TRC] we get a chance to fine tune, what we’re going to take to the World Cup.”
Everyone’s a chance, so we’ll say No to nobody.
He is busily traversing New Zealand, and after last Friday night’s Crusaders v Lions game, he told RadioSport he would head home [in Christchurch] and watch the Sunwolves v Highlanders game. That next day, Hansen would fly north to Wellington, to be in attendance for the crunch Hurricanes v Chiefs game.
All this is leading to what Hansen refers to as, “the busy part of the season; from a selection point-of-view.”
Steve Hansen sitting back and ‘taking it all in’
The injury to Damian McKenzie; while a ‘spanner in the works’ in terms of planning, only opens up an opportunity for others. Steve Hansen responded to the topic of a third first-five, by saying “there is no point taking somebody if they’re not up to the right quality.
“We’ve got two world-class drivers in Beauden [Barrett] and Richie [Mo’unga] clearly. So Beauden gives us the same utility factors that Damian does. We do have replacements in that area, so we just have to look at ‘is it better to use someone within that group?’ or ‘do we look to find someone else?’
The big thing is, we should take our time and not rush it. Make sure we make the right decision.
Note: selector Grant Fox has been quoted as saying “Japan is only ten and a half hours away, it’s not hard to get someone up there,” when questioned on the judgment of initially naming a 31-man RWC squad”
Steve Hansen and NZ rugby fans received a confidence boost this week. News that All Blacks and Crusaders first five-eighth Richie Mo’unga, has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby. Inking a new deal through to 2022.
Current Super Rugby standouts
When co-host Sam Casey asked about any current Super Rugby standouts, Hansen replied “yeah, there’s been two or three actually. I’m not going to mention names and put pressure on them but, I’d say it has been obvious to most people. And it’s good to see.
“Now we are getting into that business part of the season, it’ll be interesting to see how, if they can maintain that high level of performance that we’ve been seeing.”
After that interview, the rugby media were all clambering to deduce which players Steve Hansen inferred. Tom Robinson, and Braydon Ennor and Sevu Reece of the Crusaders, were names of players that are putting their hands up highest.
While Steve Hansen did not clearly say ‘we have our eye on some Bolters’ he has a history of picking players out of the blue. Nehe Milner-Skudder enjoyed a fantastic introduction to the All Blacks, which led him directly into the 2015 RWC cup final.
All preparations toward to Main Objective
Watching players in action is just one part of the equation. Steve Hansen, fellow coaches/selectors Ian Foster, and Grant Fox invited leading players to Foundation Day camps, and will soon enough be nominating players for upcoming training camps.
Who is to say that a player like a Tom Robinson might impress in a training camp but, transferring that into the test match arena is difficult to say. With so many ‘hands being put up’ you need to really impress to stand out today. Although, even leading 2018 try scorer Ben Lam, was still unable to force the All Blacks selectors to insert him into contention.
While Steve Hansen might enjoy sitting back and taking it all in, it is not as easy as some might think. Analyzing players, cross-matching the needs of the national team and forging goals of reaching the sides main objective, will keep him busy from now, right through until November, when he will end his term with the All Blacks after 16 years.
The All Blacks first test of 2019 is scheduled for July 21: Argentina v New Zealand.
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