Saturday 20 January 2018

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen predicts split Lions squad will call for fresh blood

All Blacks coach Steven Hansen. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
All Blacks coach Steven Hansen. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Ruaidhri O’Connor

All Black coach Steve Hansen has continued to gently poke at his Lions opposite number Warren Gatland today, pre-emptively suggesting that the tourists are about to call for re-inforcements and stating that there is a gulf in class between the weekend and mid-week teams.

The World Cup winning coach has been chiding his fellow New Zealander from the sidelines to date ahead of their three-Test showdown that kicks off next Saturday and his comments are unlikely to be well-received in Rotorua where the Lions are preparing to take on the Maori All Blacks on Saturday.

“I think there is a clear difference between their two teams - their midweek team and their Saturday team,” Hansen said.

“It was a good game of footie on Tuesday night in Dunedin and both teams participated in that and it could have gone either way.

“So I don’t think they have lost too much ground in that department.

“But there is definitely a difference between the two squads in the way they are performing.

“I think he (Gatland) is about to bring a few extra players out to give himself the ability to play two squads. He’s at the stage where he wants to do that.

“I guess he will bring them out from the UK.”

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The All Blacks warm-up for the Test series with a game against Samoa at Eden Park tomorrow morning, part of a double header as Wales take on Tonga at the same venue.

He has picked a fearsome line-up for the clash, close to his first-choice team with Kieran Read and Ryan Crotty expected to return next week.

And Hansen appears unperturbed by what the Lions will bring to the table.

“We know that Conor Murray is going to kick the ball a lot. We have always selected people in the past who can catch those, so that will be one of the things we will look at when it comes to that first Test,” he said.

“There might well be some things kept back, but the basics of their game isn’t going to change. It hasn’t changed since he has been coaching, has it?

“If you look at the basics of our game, we haven’t changed much either from when I took over. We all have our own style.”

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