Hansen warns All Blacks not to believe own hype
STEVE HANSEN has been keeping his younger players away from the media spotlight ahead of the third Test against Ireland in Hamilton on Saturday.
According to local media, it is understood that, following the first Test 42-10 hammering of the Irish in Auckland, the New Zealand coach felt there was too much adulation heaped on the world champions and their younger players such as Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith, and they were deliberately placed off limits to the media.
Apparently, Saturday night's near-defeat in Christchurch has strengthened Hansen's conviction that the All Blacks needed to stop believing their own hype, and the players put up for public consumption this week have been experienced older heads like Andrew Hore, Piri Weepu and Liam Messam.
Hansen names his team tomorrow and Messam is one of his back-row options, along with Sam Cane, if Kieran Read is ruled out with a head injury, with the option of switching captain Richie McCaw to No 8.
Hooker Keven Mealamu is also back in contention after injury but may have to be content with a place on the bench.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney, who also announces his team tomorrow, is pondering his options following the injuries to Gordon D'Arcy and Jamie Heaslip which have ruled both players out of the third Test.
Paddy Wallace has joined the squad in Queenstown and, as a specialist No 12 after a superb season with Ulster, he could slot straight into D'Arcy's role.
Another option, if Keith Earls is available again, would be to play Earls at outside-centre with O'Driscoll inside, as happened in the first Test, although the Ireland captain looked far more menacing in his customary outside role last weekend.
Kidney could also put Earls on the left wing, where he was so effective during the World Cup, switch Andrew Trimble to the right and bring Fergus McFadden into his best position of 12.
And finally, there is the option of playing Ronan O'Gara and Jonathan Sexton in a 10-12 combination which Kidney has never tried from the start of an international.
The situation in the back-row is less complex, a straight shoot-out between Peter O'Mahony and Chris Henry to see who comes in for the injured Jamie Heaslip, with the option of moving Sean O'Brien to No 8.
O'Mahony would appear to have the edge here on the basis of starting the first Test and making a good contribution off the bench in last weekend's defeat. Henry is a specialist No 8 but has spent most of the last two seasons playing openside for Ulster due to the presence of South African Pedrie Wannenberg.
Ireland did not train yesterday but mixed and matched players in their indoor session on Monday, with today's afternoon session, Wallace's first, likely to help with the final selection decisions.