Some back room tinkering for the All Blacks
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has tinkered with his management team, heaping more responsibility on himself as the World Cup defence campaign intensifies.
Hansen revealed that he has made several changes to All Blacks planning, including restructuring his and the roles of some of his assistants following an internal review.
The most significant change involves Hansen taking an even more hands-on coaching role, starting with the anticipated three-test homes series against England in June.
He has assumed the squad's defence portfolio which was previously handled by Aussie McLean while retaining responsibility for the overall team strategy and game structure. He will continue to share responsibility for the forwards with set-piece guru Mike Cron.
Ian Foster will remain backs coach and Mick Byrne retains his specialist skills brief. Grant Fox, as a selector, and manager Darren Shand will also continue in their respective capacities.
There will also be an increased emphasis on analysis of opposition teams, a role that will fall to McLean.
The changes come despite a stellar unbeaten season last year and are a clear sign the national team is determined to continue their unrivalled success.
The review focused on the build-up to the 2015 World Cup defence in England with Hansen saying his management team critiqued their individual and collective performances.
McLean's adjusted role does not leave him time to also cover defence. He will, instead, concentrate on providing valuable feedback to the team on opposition sides.
"We want to put a greater emphasis on analysis and we think Aussie is the right man to do it," Hansen told the Sunday Star Times. "We don't want to bring anyone new in so I'll be doing the defence."
Hansen was also involved in the last All Blacks management restructure, though in entirely different circumstances.
Full scale changes were made following three home defeats to France and South Africa at the end of 2009. On that occasion, Hansen took the All Blacks attacking duties from Wayne Smith; Graham Henry switched from defence to overseeing the forwards, leaving Smith to swap attack for defence. The trio, of course, went on to break New Zealand's 24-year World Cup drought.
The All Blacks had a phenomenal defensive record last season.
Over the course of their 14-test unbeaten run - the first blemish-free season in the professional era - they conceded just 18 tries while scoring 50. South Africa had the most success, scoring six tries - four in the epic Four Nations finale at Ellis Park - while France could only manage two in four tests.
But no-one is more critical of the All Blacks than themselves. While they were unbeaten last year, it was clear on the end of year tour the European nations, as well as the consistent threat from the Springboks and Wallabies, will pose significant challenges over the next 18 months.
"We can't be satisfied with what we've got," Hansen said. "The aspiration of this team is to be a dominating side in world rugby. In the review process we have to be real with ourselves and ask did we achieve that. Yes we won 14 tests so from an outcome point of view we did, but from a quality of performance we didn't dominate all the time.
"We've looked hard at some of the reasons why we haven't and we'll be implementing things to hopefully rectify that."
Sunday Star Times