New Zealand Rugby
Hansen confident of All Black revival & NZPA
June 27, 2009
Steve Hansen forwards coach, Richie McCaw captain and Mils Muliaina of the All Blacks celebrate in the dressing room with the winners trophy following the match between Wales and the New Zealand All Blacks at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, United Kingdom on November 22, 2008.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is hoping that Richie McCaw's return will spark a revival © Getty Images

The All Blacks coaching team are confident that their Tri-Nations defence can be a success despite their recent injury troubles and below-par performances in Tests against France and Italy.

Their 27-6 win over the Azzurri in Christchurch on Saturday was a disjointed affair played out in front of one of the smallest crowds on record for an All Blacks Test, just over 18,000. Their injury list has included skipper Richie McCaw, winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, fly-half Dan Carter, centre Conrad Smith, hooker Andrew Hore and the rested Rodney So'oialo, absences that led to a Test loss to the French and the loss of the Dave Gallaher Trophy for the first time.

With criticism of the coaching staff reaching boiling point, assistant coach Steve Hansen has spoken out about their injury losses and recent form. The All Blacks will announce their squad for the Tri Nations on Saturday, with their tournament kicking off with a Bledisloe Cup showdown against the Wallabies in Auckland on July 18, with Hansen sure that their returning stars will have a positive impact as they prepare to take on the confident Wallabies.

"That's over a third of your side and it's a lot of Test caps," Hansen said of the absences. "Not too many countries could lose the people we lost and still win Test matches and still feel disappointed with the way they played.

"We know we played poorly but we also know that we are exposing a lot of new people to Test rugby and the experience. They will be better for it."

The All Blacks will have precious little time to prepare for their opener, with a two-day camp in Wellington likely to be all the preparation allowed before they take on a Wallabies side that coasted past France in Sydney on Saturday. Hansen believes that these adverse conditions should not affect their readiness, emphasising the positives from their opening Tests of the season.

"We don't have a choice do we?" Hansen said. "We have to get up and we have been in this situation before, so the world has not come to an end. If you look at the three-match series, Kieran Read really put his hand up as an international No 8, JK (flanker Jerome Kaino) has come back and performed really well and (lock) Isaac Ross has shown us he can perform at Test level. He's still got some maturing and growing to do but he's done some good things."

The coaching staff will hold a teleconference with coaches Ian Foster and Colin Cooper from the Junior All Blacks, who have retained the Pacific Nations Cup, with lock Jason Eaton a potential inclusion in the Tri-Nations squad as cover for second-row and flanker after some game-time on the blindside for the Junior side.

"We just think that aerially he's not a world-class Test player but he's still quite a handy person to have on that bench where he can play those two roles," Hansen said of Eaton.


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