All Blacks to Rest Stars for Tri Nations Crusade
After a chaotic Super Rugby season, All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen has confirmed that many of the Crusaders reps in the New Zealand Test squad will be given a deserved rest throughout the upcoming 2011 Tri Nations tournament.
While the Tri Nations series opener will take place this Saturday at ANZ Stadium, the Australian Wallabies v Springboks, New Zealand will kick off their campaign against South Africa the following Saturday on July 30 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
The Kiwis suffered an early scare regarding their bid to score back-to-back Tri Nation series wins when seven-time Super Rugby champion squad the Crusaders went down in the Grand Final to the Queensland Reds this month.
With the All Blacks Tri Nations outfit littered with Crusaders players, the decision has been made to give some of the men a break after a testing Super Rugby schedule made tougher by the non-ability for games to take place at their home venue at AMI Stadium following the Christchurch earthquake.
“One of the things we’ve got to make sure we do is allow those guys who’ve had an emotional trip as well as a long, physical campaign (time to refresh),” Hansen said.
“Super 15 this year has been tremendously physical, more than anyone expected.
“Throw in the emotional toll of not having a fixed home and having to travel all the time, and the emotional effect of having earthquakes regularly up there.
“Those guys have been through a lot.
“To allow them to just take a step back and take a breath and regather themselves is going to be hugely important if we want them to be in good form going into the World Cup.
“We’re going to have to be smart about what we do.
“That might mean giving them a bit of space early in the Tri Nations.
“It might be some of them get a bit of space later in the Tri Nations”
Crusaders players that could be rested include No.8 Kieran Read, hooker Corey Flynn, prop Owen Franks, lock Sam Whitelock and possibly fly-half Dan Carter.
Hansen confirmed, however, that skipper Richie McCaw would play on through the entire Tri Nations series.
“Someone like Richie, who’s been injured for a lot of the tournament, probably needs to play and will play,” he said.
“That’s where we’ve got to be smart.”
The decision to rest the players is so that the All Blacks are fully recouped and at top fitness for the 2011 Rugby World Cup this September – October, New Zealand to host the highly-spruiked contest.
“(We) have put a clear plan in place that we believe will have them in A1 shape for the biggest event of the year – the World Cup,” Hansen revealed.