Rotation back for All Blacks tour to Europe
Read or Carter could step upRICHARD KNOWLER
Rotation is back and a compulsory stand-down looms for captain Richie McCaw.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has signalled mass changes will be made to the team that starts against Italy next month and the resting of McCaw will result in either Kieran Read or Dan Carter being promoted to captain for the first time.
With just six days separating the first two tests, to be played in Edinburgh and Rome on November 12 and 18, Hansen is wary of injuring key players before the tougher matches against Wales and England. So the rotation policy - the unpopular concept instigated by Graham Henry - will be briefly dredged up again.
Hansen is unrepentant as he seeks to mark his first term as head coach without a loss.
Having learnt the Scotland test has been shifted back a day, he argues the lack of recovery time and travel require him to name a vastly different side against Italy.
McCaw, who last missed a test when rested from the final World Cup pool match against Canada on October 2 last year, is likely to miss the game against the Azzurri.
"That is a possibility and I see that as a positive," Hansen said. "It will give someone the chance to take over the leadership.
"Kieran Read or Dan Carter are probably the two leading candidates, depending on what the final selections are."
Resting McCaw, who played all four tests on the 2010 grand slam tour, will allow him to recuperate for a fortnight before transferring to Cardiff to face Six Nations champions Wales in their penultimate test a week later.
When the All Blacks, who were captained by No 8 Rodney So'oialo, played Italy in Milan in 2009, they fielded a second-string side that recorded an unconvincing 20-6 win.
However, Hansen hinted that would not be repeated.
"There won't be an A and a B side but there will be a large amount of change," he said.
When naming a predictable 32-man squad yesterday, Hansen said the inclusion of uncapped hooker Dane Coles ahead of Hika Elliot allowed him to see how Coles operated at test level.
Although Coles' lineout throwing had been ropey during the Hurricanes' season, Hansen had seen improvements and noted he was proving a powerful scrummager. Hansen was again forced to defend the selection of Ali Williams as the fourth lock.
Although conceding he selected Williams on reputation, not form, Hansen rejected suggestions the 31-year-old, who has played a couple of matches since mid-June, was washed up.
If Blues coach John Kirwan can coerce the lock into performing during next year's Super Rugby competition, this tour may not be Williams' last hurrah.
"I'm hoping he stands up and plays extremely well - if he does that, it won't be," Hansen said. "He's got back in the side because of what he has done previously."
Read will retain the responsibility for the lineouts.
" ‘Reado' drives our lineouts and he will continue to do that. Where Ali is a great asset is how he gets ready to play . . . 75 tests is a lot of tests."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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