Hansen: Selection door not closed for June tests

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 16:06 14/05/2013
Steve Hansen
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax Media
HARD CALLS: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen speaking to the media in Wellington today.

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says the door is not closed on those who narrowly missed his wider training group, including form opensides Matt Todd and Luke Braid.

The selection of Sam Cane as the only specialist No 7 in today's squad of 38 was one of the major talking points along with the omission of Highlanders midfielder Tamati Ellison.

But Hansen said the loose forward mix did not necessarily mean somebody like Victor Vito would be converted to cover openside during the three test series against France next month.

''The other flankers we are looking at Matt Todd, Luke Braid and Tanerau Latimer, we know really, really well,'' he said. 

''Lats has played for the All Blacks, Matt spent some time with us at the end of the World Cup and Luke has been coached by Foz [Ian Foster].

''We're limited by the number of people we can bring to the camp and therefore we thought, we know these guys, so we'll keep monitoring them on the field.

''It just means we're only taking one openside specialist to the camp... the three guys I mentioned are all in consideration. Once we get the camps out of the way and get down to the nitty-gritty we'll make decisions on the team we will pick. We might take two sevens, we might only take one, we might take three.''

Meanwhile, Ellison's decision to head back to Japan ''basically'' ruled him out of the camps, but not necessarily the June tests.

''He's not cancelled out, but we know a lot about Tams and he is leaving,'' Hansen said.

''We just felt he wasn't going to be at the first camp because the Highlanders aren't coming, so it made sense to leave him out. We'll make a decision when we select the side whether he's in or not.''

However, it appears Ellison's decision to leave has seen him switch places with Rene Ranger in the midfield/utility pecking order.

''If we end up selecting him [Ranger] and he decides to go to France that would be disappointing, but at this stage he hasn't signed anything officially to go so well have to wait and see,'' Hansen said when asked if the Blues centre had been selected to stop him heading off shore.

Hansen was relaxed about depth in most positions though he surprisingly cited the outside backs as an area of concern.

Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Julian Savea, Hosea Gear, Charles Piutau and Frank Halai are part of an exciting looking group of wings and fullbacks.

Though there are ten potential new caps in the squad, a more conservative approach was applied at hooker with the selection of only the three incumbents Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu and Dane Coles.

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Hansen explained younger contenders were simply not ready to make the step up this season, while two with, potential Motu Matu'u and James Parsons, were both out injured.

And he felt there was adequate back up in the meantime from experienced players like Corey Flynn and Hika Elliot should one of the incumbents succumb to injury.

''We don't think there is a young hooker ready to come in yet. Our main focus in that area is Dane Coles and we think we can bring him up to speed and use the other two particularly early in the season we'll be happy with that,'' Hansen said.

''The other guys are 21-22 and not ready to step in. There's no point in bringing them in til they're ready so we just have to be patient.''

- Fairfax Media

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