All Black coach Steve Hansen fronted for the media for the first time in 2019 today, as the North Island-based players were put through their paces at a one-day training session in Auckland.
Hansen covered a range of issues at the start of what will be a massive year for the All Blacks, culminating in the World Cup in Japan in September.
One of the biggest talking points of the last few weeks has been the form of Chiefs halfback Brad Weber, and the fact that he has been keeping incumbent All Black Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi off the park for much of the season. Hansen admitted that he would rather Tahuriorangi was seeing more game time, but praised Weber’s leadership.
“Brad’s playing really well, that’s why Te Toiroa’s not getting too many minutes. Brad’s leading well and Te Toiroa’s come back from his off-season probably not where he should’ve been and Brad’s taken every opportunity he’s got. So does it concern me? Yeah, I’d like [Tahuriorangi] to get more minutes but Brad’s form excites me, so it’s a double edged sword.” says Hansen.
He admits that the Rugby Championship would act as a trial period for the World Cup squad.
“It always will do in World Cup years. The way the Rugby Championship has been structured for us sees us play Argentina then South Africa, so that’s block one. Then we get the two [Bledisloe Cup] games, so we’ll start with a larger squad for those first two. Anyone who makes the [Super Rugby] finals will be unlikely to play in Argentina.”
While the All Blacks involved in today’s training camp still have a number of weeks to play in the Super Rugby competition, Hansen says the aim was to work on micro-skills and game plans.
“They’ll put that in their back pocket and take it back to their sides.”
The players from the Highlanders and Crusaders who are currently on tour in South Africa will attend another one-day camp next weekend in Christchurch.