New Zealand v Argentina, Rugby Championship
Dan Carter still No.1 - Steve Hansen
September 5, 2013
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen talks to fly-half Dan Carter, New Zealand training session, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, September 1, 2013
Steve Hansen has no doubt Dan Carter remains his "go to" guy © Getty Images

Dan Carter still sets the pace for New Zealand's emerging crop of five-eighths despite his recent run of injuries, Steve Hansen says.

Aaron Cruden is putting real pressure on Carter for the New Zealand No.10 jumper, the dual Super Rugby-winning Chiefs pivot impressive in particular in the first Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia in Sydney, while Beauden Barrett has performed well in cameos off the bench and Tom Taylor produced a wonderful composed debut in the second Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington.

Carter, meanwhile, was less than impressive in his only Test of the season, against France in New Plymouth, in June. But Hansen defended Carter's performance, saying the playmaker had gone into the side after a spell on the sidelines and he had not previously been exposed to the team's new developing game plan.

"He just needs a decent run of games," Hansen said. "He's a world-class player. You saw that in the Super competition. When he got some games going, he started putting some performances in.

"It's interesting isn't it? We've gone from probably having the best first five-eighths in the history of the game, but certainly the best first five-eighths in world rugby to probably the second best first five-eighths as well.

"'Crudes' has really developed and taken the bull by the horns. Beauden is developing nicely and Tom Taylor's performance the other day was nothing short of miraculous coming in as your fourth five-eighths with the confidence.

New Zealand's Dan Carter takes on the Scotland defence, Scotland v New Zealand, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland, November 11, 2012
Dan Carter has answered every challenge to date, Steve Hansen says © Getty Images

"That creates a little bit of depth, but it also creates some pressure and it will interesting how Dan takes that. You don't want him looking over his shoulder; you want him looking forward and trying to improve his own game rather than being pressured. And I'm sure he will, he's had a few challenges in his time." he said.

Hansen also paid tribute to Charlie Faumuina, who has replaced injured tight-head Owen Franks. "He's made some really good progress. He's really knuckled down and got his fitness, and condition and strength has improved immensely, so it's a big day for him and he's ready for it. It's a big opportunity but one that I think he's really ready for."

Hansen, meanwhile, played down the physical incidents in the recent Test between Argentina and South Africa in Mendoza, where Leonardo Senatore was found guilty of biting Eben Etzebeth and Pablo Matera was cleared of allegations that he had eye-gouged Francois Louw. He said simply that New Zealand were prepared for a physical opponent and "we'll have to meet that challenge".

"We're not playing tiddlywinks and every now and then people probably do things they don't want to do," Hansen said, "In the heat of the battle, it happens. I don't see them as being a dirty team.

"They're a good rugby side, they're growing into this competition, and they've probably got the hardest job of all four teams. They've got most of their players playing in the northern hemisphere, they don't get much of an opportunity to get that reconditioning window that you get at the end of the season because they are coming straight into a June window.

"It's going to be difficult going on for them but hopefully they can get some contracted players back home and involved in some competition that suits this competition."

Follow live text commentary of the Test between New Zealand and Argentina on Saturday, September 7, from 5pm (AEST), 7pm (NZT), 7am (GMT)

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick review and preview the rugby weeks past, present and future
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