Hansen unveils World Cup pool strategy

The All Blacks will hit the ground running with their strongest team for the opening match against Argentina at the rugby World Cup.

Then it will be all-change four days later when they face Namibia.

Coach Steve Hansen has given some insight into how he will handle the All Blacks’ tightest turnaround in 20 years when they open their pool C campaign in London this month.

He has already pencilled in a likely starting XV, injuries permitting, for the September 20 clash with the Pumas at Wembley Stadium.

It will be a vastly different side against world No.20 Namibia at the Olympic Stadium on September 24.

“Argentina are one of the key games of the pool so we’ll try to put as many of our best players out there that we can. We’ve got a pretty good idea who we’re going to start,” Hansen said.

“We’ve still got to play a game four days later so some of them might have to back up, probably two or three, and then we’ll get the rest of them on the park.”

The only player likely to miss both games is injured winger Waisake Naholo, whose return has been targeted for the third game against Georgia.

The last time the All Blacks played Test matches in a four-day period was at the more condensed 1995 World Cup. They did it twice in a row, in pool fixtures against Ireland, Wales and Japan.

Their record short turnaround is three days, between their 1991 semi-final loss to Australia and third-fourth play-off win over Scotland.

Eight other nations will face four-day gaps during the pool phase, including title hopefuls South Africa, Australia and France.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw says the tricky draw is “only fair” given second-tier nations have often borne the brunt of such schedules at recent tournaments. Organisers drew heavy criticism in 2011 for a draw which appeared to favour leading teams.

Hansen says the pool phase remains the All Blacks’ focus, with the quarter-finals onward regarded as a separate bridge to cross.

He predicts the quarter-final loss to France at Cardiff in 2007 will provide ample motivation when the knockout phase begins.

“There’s not a lot of talking that needs to be done. No one’s forgotten 2007.

“It’s a great reminder to all of us that if you don’t step up, you go home. We’ll earn the right to get there first and then we’ll deal with what comes after that.”

The 31-man squad gathers again in Auckland on Monday after completing a three-day camp in Wellington and depart for the UK next Thursday.

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