All Blacks building depth that is set to prove a game-changer at 2019 World Cup

Steve Hansen has used 55 All Blacks in 2017, and 44 of them on this northern tour. This does not apply to the Boks at present under Coetzee

As insurance policies go, Steve Hansen may just have a dandy a couple of years out from the next World Cup. The All Blacks have been better, for sure, but have they ever been deeper than they are right now?

It’s a legitimate question to ask as Hansen leads a 43-strong leviathan around France and the UK this November. They will briefly number 44 when Akira Ioane joins them from his Maori commitments in Bordeaux and then return to a more modest 37 following the Lyon midweeker, by which time the injured Jerome Kaino and a half-dozen Baabaas ring-ins will have jetted back to New Zealand.

The answer to the earlier question is almost certainly no. This may not be an All Blacks squad humming on all cylinders, a la the 2015 World Cup champions, or their 2016 successors, or even the 2013 perfect year men, but they are deeper than Voltaire, which could yet be the single most important advantage they hold over their global rivals heading towards Japan in 2019.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has taken the biggest All Blacks squad to the northern hemisphere.

Rugby is a brutal, gladiatorial game, and only getting more so. The professional level of the sport is played nigh on 10 months of the year, and it is exacting a massive toll. Injuries are becoming not just a part of the game, but the dominant factor any coach has to combat when preparing for a campaign of any sort.

France had 19 players officially unavailable for their test against the All Blacks at Stade de France, and that’s just nine games into the new Top 14 season. Clubs in the UK and France are already dealing with long-term injury lists as high as 15 or 16, with some struggling to put full squads on the park.

Of course Hansen knows this. And his 2017 campaign has been mapped out to reflect it. It’s no coincidence that the All Blacks added a Barbarians and midweek French XV match to their three mandated tests on this tour.

That created, in effect, two non-test matchups, and gave Hansen the ideal stage on which to run his dirty-dirties, or second-tier men. It’s all very well bringing people on tour for experience, but if you can give them legitimate international matches as well, then even better.

Ironically injuries in his own group have also helped Hansen further build his depth this year. He had seven top players either crocked or unavailable for personal reasons when he set out for London, and Kaino became the eighth when a knee injury forced him out after the Baabaas clash.

By manager Darren Shand’s count the All Blacks have used 55 players in and around their various engagements in 2017, and that is an unprecedented number.

It is also a number that won’t upset Hansen and assistant Ian Foster as they look to build a depth chart that their chasing rivals, such as England, Ireland, the Springboks and Australia, can only look at with envy.

The All Blacks have legitimate international quality three deep in probably every position bar halfback. And you can bet finding a successor to the departing Tawera Kerr-Barlow will be their No 1 priority in 2018.

“We’re trying to grow some more depth, and we’re doing that,” says Hansen. “People don’t understand just how tough it is when you first come into the All Blacks. They expect the result to be clinical and precise, but the reality is that’s not the case.

“Sometimes, particularly when you’ve got a young group, there is going to be inconsistency. You’ve just got to be patient and take your time. I know for a fact we’ll end up with some quality people [at the end of this tour] and have a good group to be able to select from in 2019.

“The key thing this year is we’ve had a number of injuries, suspensions and personal tragedies that have exposed a wider base than we probably thought we would do this year. But at the beginning of next year when everyone is available we should have a bigger pool to pick from, and more experienced people too which should give us a boost to the next level.’

Think about it. Bring back Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Israel Dagg and maybe even a rejuvenated Julian Savea, and suddenly you have all sorts of options in the back three. Same when you add Owen Franks and Joe Moody to the suddenly bulging prop stock.

Halfback is the only position where Hansen would have just a little concern. Maybe No 8 too, but there are not a lot of opportunities there behind the skipper.

At No 9, behind Aaron Smith and TJ Perrenara, he does not have an obvious backup. It’s why he brought Kerr-Barlow on one final tour, even though he is departing at its end.

But this is New Zealand rugby. That hole will be plugged soon enough. Mitchell Drummond has had a week with the Baabaas, and now one with the All Blacks. Brad Weber remains a contender. Same with Auggie Pulu and Bryn Hall. The national coaches just need to see more from them.

“We’re giving other people an opportunity to grow and get an understanding of what All Blacks rugby is about,” adds Hansen. “Northern tours have always been about bringing extra people so we can develop them. It’s a good platform, you’re in a touring environment where things are quite intense for a month, and you get a good look at the young guys.

“One of our big aims for the year was to expose young guys to touring, test match rugby and playing for the All Blacks. By the end of this season we would have done that in bulk.”

Have a look at this depth chart, and judge for yourself where Hansen’s All Blacks stand less than two years from the World Cup.

Sure, they’ve had a wobble or two, but simply no one – England included – can match them for depth.

ALL BLACKS’ DEPTH CHART

Fullback: Ben Smith, Jordie Barrett, Damian McKenzie, David Havili.

Wings: Rieko Ioane, Israel Dagg, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Seta Tamanivalu, Matt Duffie, Julian Savea.

Midfield: Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Anton Liennert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Jack Goodhue, Charlie Ngatai.

First fives: Beauden Barrett, Lima Sopoaga, Richie Mo’unga, Damian McKenzie.

Halfback: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara.

Loose forwards: Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Matt Todd, Vaea Fifita, Jerome Kaino, Akira Ioane, Luke Whitelock.

Locks: Brodie Retllick, Sam Whhitelock, Luke Romano, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Dominic Bird.

Props: Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Kane Hames, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Tim Perry, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Atu Moli.

Hookers: Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris, Asafo Aumua.

source Sunday Star Times

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Looks a great read -Watched all the games regarding the Lions 2017 tour to NZ

In the Line of Fire: The Inside Story from the Lions Head Coach

Looks a top read -just bought it from Amazon

All Blacks team named for final Test against Australia

The All Blacks team has been named to play the third Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia at Suncorp Stadium, Australia, this Saturday 21 October.
The matchday 23 (with Test caps in brackets) is:

1. Kane Hames (5)
2. Dane Coles (54)
3. Nepo Laulala (9)
4. Samuel Whitelock (92)
5. Scott Barrett (13)
6. Liam Squire (12)
7. Sam Cane (49)
8. Kieran Read (106) – Captain

9. Aaron Smith (67) -pictured below with Razia Myers and me

10. Lima Sopoaga (12)
11. Rieko Ioane (9)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (42)
13. Ryan Crotty (31)
14. Waisake Naholo (14)
15. Damian McKenzie (8)

16. Codie Taylor (25)
17. Wyatt Crockett (67)
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (10)
19. Patrick Tuipulotu (14)
20. Matt Todd (10)
21. TJ Perenara (38)
22. Anton Lienert-Brown (18)
23. David Havili (2)

The team features four changes from the matchday 23 which played the last Test against South Africa and they are all in the backs: Lima Sopoaga comes in for Beauden Barrett in the 10 jersey, while Waisake Naholo comes in on the wing for the injured Nehe Milner-Skudder. TJ Perenara is reserve halfback, with Anton Lienert-Brown coming into the 23 to provide additional back cover.

Meanwhile, Sam Cane will play his 50th Test in an All Blacks career which started five years ago in June 2012 when he made his Test debut against Ireland.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said this weekend had all the makings of another great Test match.

“Both teams have their own goals and expectations. From Australia’s point of view, they’ll be desperate to win as they haven’t done so for some time. For us, our goal is to never be satisfied at where we’re at, and that means it’s greater than just the outcome. It’s about how we play, individually and collectively as a unit. We’re always striving to get better every game and this week is no different.

“As always, to do that, our preparation has to be spot on and bone deep. It’s an individual focus for each player. The job of the team management is to facilitate a training week which provides them with clarity and the right amount of intensity so that they can arrive on Saturday ready to hum.

“It’ll be another great opportunity for this young team to show what they’ve learnt throughout the year and playing at Suncorp Stadium will be another fantastic learning experience for them all. It’s a great ground with a lot of tradition and there’ll be huge support for the All Blacks, which we’re looking forward to.”

Pictures from Captains walk about at Newlands which featured the All Blacks today ahead of Saturday’s 7 October date with the Springboks

André Venter presents match day jerseys to Springboks

Former Springbok flank André Venter presented the Springboks with their match jerseys on Friday morning at their team hotel in Cape Town.

photo credit -Gallo images /SA Rugby

Venter played in 66 Tests for the Springboks between 1996 and 2001 and was a member of the team that won the bronze medal at the 1999 Rugby World Cup in the United Kingdom.

He has been in a wheelchair in recent years after being struck down by a degenerative syndrome of the central nervous system called transverse myelitis. He is a successful businessman and also a motivational speaker.

Venter shared some inspirational words with the Springboks before he presented the match 23 with their playing jerseys for Saturday’s clash with New Zealand.

“I can see there is something special happening within this group,” said Venter to the current crop of Springboks, and urged the players to embrace the responsibility of wearing the Green and Gold.

“It is important to believe in what you’re doing and where you’re heading. The Springboks have an unbelievable history and you must be able to write your own chapter.”

Venter had the honour to present the Bok players with their jerseys on two previous occasions, and said he was extremely grateful and blessed to do so for a third time. The honour of playing for the team and your country is something that is not easy to describe, explained Venter.

“Only when you’re no longer playing and not part of that unique circle anymore, that is when it dawns on you how special the Springbok environment is. My advice to the players is to enjoy the experience and to make a telling contribution to the rich story of the Springboks,” said Venter.

Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth described Venter as probably the hardest man ever to play for the Springboks: “He epitomises everything you want in a great Springbok, so it was an unbelievable honour to receive our Test jerseys from Andre.”

The Springboks tackle New Zealand tomorrow in a 17h05 kick off at DHL Newlands, the two teams’ final fixture of the 2017 Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

Issued by SA Rugby Communications

Happy snaps of Springbok team photo Friday morning ahead of the test mach on Saturday against All Blacks

Rested All Blacks slot straight in to match day team to play Springboks at Newlands

The All Blacks team to play South Africa at Newlands Stadium, Cape Town, this Saturday 7 October 2017 is :

The matchday 23 (with Test caps in brackets) is:

1. Kane Hames (4)
2. Dane Coles (53)
3. Nepo Laulala (8)
4. Samuel Whitelock (91)
5. Scott Barrett (12)
6. Liam Squire (11)
7. Sam Cane (48)
8. Kieran Read (105) – Captain
9. Aaron Smith (66)
10. Beauden Barrett (58)
11. Rieko Ioane (8)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (41)
13. Ryan Crotty (30)
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder (10)
15. Damian McKenzie (7)

16. Codie Taylor (24)
17. Wyatt Crockett (66)
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (9)
19. Patrick Tuipulotu (13)
20. Matt Todd (9)
21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (26)
22. Lima Sopoaga (11)
23. David Havili (1)

As expected, the five All Blacks who came to South Africa early ( the holiday makers who spent time on Camps Bay beach see pic below ) have all been named in the matchday 23.

Samuel Whitelock returns to the second row alongside Scott Barrett, Liam Squire is at blindside flanker and Sam Cane is at openside, with Matt Todd moving to the bench.

In the backs, Ryan Crotty has been named at centre, while Nehe Milner-Skudder is on the right wing.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow has been named at reserve halfback while Lima Sopoaga provides additional back cover alongside David Havili.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “We’ve settled in well in Cape Town this week.

However, our preparation has been different because of the need to recover well from all the travel.

This has meant that there’s been less time on the park and an even greater emphasis than normal on the mental side of our preparation.

As always, getting real clarity of our roles and how we want to play has been key.

“We know we’ll be playing a proud Springbok side which will be determined to rectify what happened in Albany.

While it’s necessary for us to try and anticipate what they’re going to bring to the match, it’s more important for us to focus on what we’re going to bring to the encounter.

Our skill execution, our physicality and our ability to play our ‘triple threat’ game will be critical.

“The team is really looking forward to playing at Newlands after a nine-year absence.

The beach boys: Squire ,Cane ,Sopoaga.Whitelock,Crotty -Camps Bay Beach

“We know we have a huge fanbase here and the hospitality and reception we have received from the local folks has been fantastic.”

Key notes:

• The All Blacks and South Africa have played each other 94 times, with 56 wins to the All Blacks, 35 to South Africa and three draws.

• The All Blacks have scored 49 tries this year, so the next one makes 50 – and that will be the 13th time this century. It is ten years since any other team has reached 50 tries.

• This will be the tenth time the All Blacks have played South Africa at Newlands.

The last match there was in 2008, which the All Blacks won 19-0.

The Boks took it up the nought ..I was at that game along with Stuart Rubin marketing boss for BMG Records and the next year we did the 1st Music Exchange conference.

• David Havili’s debut try last weekend was the 100th Test match try converted by Beauden Barrett.

As well, Barrett has already equalled his last year’s Investec Rugby Championship record of 23 conversions for the season. The all-time record for the All Blacks is 27.

• Barrett and his teammate Damian McKenzie have each made 57 carries this campaign, more than any other player at the tournament.

• The All Blacks won The Rugby Championship in 2012 – 2014 and again in 2016 and 2017, have held the Freedom Cup (played between New Zealand and South Africa) since 2010 and the Bledisloe Cup (played between New Zealand and Australia) since 2003.

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