Henry endorses Hansen’s squad
RUGBY World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Graham Henry has endorsed the first squad chosen by his successor, saying Steve Hansen has avoided the mistakes he made as a novice.
Hansen on Monday named a 35man squad heavy with young talent to attend two training camps in the lead-up to a three-test series against Ireland in June.
The squad will be pared back to 30 players on June 3, six days before the first test.
In an online opinion piece Henry said he had erred when he became All Blacks coach in 2004 by naming too many established players in his first squad. He said Hansen, who was his assistant for eight years, was too experienced to make the same mistake.
“Steve Hansen has been around the All Blacks too long to make the mistakes I made when picking my first New Zealand squad in 2004,” said Henry.
“We were finding our way as coaches and thought that test match experience was all-important. It helps, but when players are coming to the end, they are not going to get any better. Steve is already looking to the future.”
Henry said he was confident Dan Carter would overcome injury and form issues to remain New Zealand’s first-choice flyhalf this season. Carter has been unable to kick goals while recovering from the groin injury that ended his World Cup campaign last year.
He has been forced to play at inside centre for the Canterbury Crusaders to accommodate another goalkicker.
Hansen has indicated Carter will not be considered at flyhalf unless he is also able to kick goals, suggesting Aaron Cruden may be preferred in the number 10 jersey.
“I’m sure Dan will be selected at 10,” said Henry. “At the moment there is a subconscious protection of his body going on that even he may not be fully aware of.
“Dan is playing [at] 75% with the reins on. But as the international season comes around and championship football returns, Dan will get back to his best.
“He’s not lost the ability. I am sure Steve sees him as a 10 who can cover 12. That gives selection flexibility, but Dan will be selected at first-five, as well as Aaron Cruden is playing.”