McLean the All Blacks' spy behind the scenes

19:08, May 20 2014
Aussie McLean
SPY: Aussie McLean is playing a vital role for the All Blacks.

Aussie McLean is now gathering intelligence on the bad guys.

Head coach Steve Hansen gives the impression he prefers the racing pages to a John le Carre novel but his drive tostretch the All Blacks' unbeaten run of 2013 has seen him convert McLean into a spy who collates information about opponents.

When McLean joined Hansen's coaching team in 2012 he worked as the side's defence coach, often attending trainings in a tracksuit and assisting in drills when required.

But yesterday McLean was a notable absentee from the All Blacks wider training group's practice at the Linwood club.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said that was because the former Canterbury coach has been charged with investigating the strengths and weaknesses of other teams, something that starts with England who tour New Zealand next month.
''He's doing a lot of work behind the scenes,'' Foster said. ''We have had a few meetings with him already for the last two days here, so he is still very active.''

McLean's previous job has been absorbed by Hansen who believes that if the All Blacks are to add to their 14 consecutive wins the coaching team needs to keep evolving.

''Steve is going to have a more active role and he's going to be doing the defence,'' Foster explained. ''In terms of the attack and the backs that's a role I have,  but as the head coach he's part of that as well.

''And remember we have got Mick [Byrne] who is with us but not here right now. So that is another key person.''

Bryne, who is an assistant at the Blues, is the team's skills coach. Mike Cron continues as a forwards coach and Grant Fox has been retained as a selector.

One of the management changes has involved Canterbury manager Chalky Carr taking over from Errol Collins as the logistics manager.

The All Blacks' training camp ended yesterday but another will be held in Wellington from Sunday to Tuesday.
Hansen, who will reduce the 35-man squad to 31 on June 1, clearly hopes McLean's new occupation gives his side a sharper edge.

''It might be just small margins, one per centers, but if can get four or five one per centers then we've improved by five per cent. Hopefully that will be good enough to put in a performance we can all be proud of,'' Hansen said.

The team's leadership group already met twice and Hansen said the person who fills the recently retired Andrew Hore's spot will be revealed when the official squad is selected.

In the past that group has included Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu. Aaron Cruden and Sam Cane were added to the group last year.

Foster acknowledged the selectors already had a plan about who will start in the first test at Eden Park on June 7.

Although Carter, who is on his sabbatical, made a surprise appearance at yesterday's training there was no chance of an early comeback before the expected appearance for his Southbridge club next month.

Carter, who was assessed by the All Blacks' medical staff, kicked a few goals and appeared to show no ill-effects from the ankle and Achilles tendon injuries he suffered late last year.

Aaron Cruden, who hasn't played since breaking his thumb on April 6, showed few signs of discomfort in one of his first trainings since that incident.

He should return to play for the Chiefs against the Hurricanes on Saturday night as he looks to fill Carter's No 10 jersey against England.