All Blacks looking to be less cluttered

Coach Steve Hansen is expecting more clarity and less clutter when the All Blacks begin their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina in Christchurch.

New Zealand’s build-up to the tournament included a trip to Samoa last week, when they produced a scratchy display in beating their hosts 25-16.

Of the match-day 23 in Apia, 17 are back to face the Pumas on Friday night and Hansen believes they will be the better for the run.

He says some players went in against Manu Samoa without a match for some weeks and there was the heat to contend with.

“Introducing new stuff was an issue, so we had three things that made us cluttered and we played like we were cluttered,” he said.

“We’ve had an extra week together. Those guys have all had a game now. The game was outstanding for us.”

There are four changes to the starting 15, including the selection of Highlanders speedster Waisake Naholo, who is set to make his Test debut.

The Fiji-born winger has been in electric form, and his pace, power and 13 tries were features of the southerners’ run to the Super Rugby title.

Also coming into the run-on side are Ma’a Nonu, named at centre, halfback TJ Perenara and lock Brodie Retallick.

Naholo, and Hurricanes Nonu and Perenara weren’t considered for the Samoa Test because of their involvement in the Super Rugby final, while Retallick came off the bench.

In the reserves, Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor gets his chance to earn a debut cap, while Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush and Chief loose forward Liam Messam have also been added.

Hansen said the selectors had “a wee bit” of a balancing act in picking the side.

“Some guys need a breather, some guys need to play and there’s some guys we want to see,” he said.

“Put those three things in the mix and it does make it a bit tricky, but we want to win the game as well.

“There’s a whole lot of things we’re looking to do. We knew that when we selected 41 players.”

That initial 41-strong All Blacks squad will be reduced to 31 for the defence of the World Cup later this year.

Asked if the players were mindful that there were just four more Tests for them to impress before the cut was made, Hansen said they were “probably too mindful”.

“Some of them are probably worrying about it a bit more than they need to,” he said.

“As I said to them, they can’t control selection. Their job is to go out there and performance and that’s one thing they can control.”

But Hansen also understood their concern over cup selection.

“It means a lot whether you’ve been here five minutes or you’ve been here for a long time,” he said.

“Of course they get anxious, just like everybody else. There’s a little bit of edge and that’s not a bad thing.

“It’s about learning to cope with that, control it and operate within that, because that’s what we’re going to face right through the World Cup”.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Charles Piutau, Dan Carter, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Jeremy Thrush, Liam Messam, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty.

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