Hansen: Only passionate All Blacks need apply

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:05 12/04/2014
Steve Hansen
ANTHONY AU-YEUNG/Getty Images
NO BLURRED MESSAGES: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wants all his players to have the required passion for a World Cup defence.

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has hinted a lack of passion as much as form will be a key component in the early auditions for next year's Rugby World Cup squad.

Hansen revealed this week he and his management team had placed a big focus on trying to understand why no team has managed to defend the William Webb Ellis Cup during the previous seven tournaments.

"There are a few inconvenient facts around the Rugby World Cup in that nobody has won two in a row, so we are having a good look at the reasons why that is and what we can do to possibly change that and start implementing some of those things now," Hansen said.

"When you are a team that's been at the top for a long time you don't have the mental attitude quite right and there is an expectation that, ‘we will go and do this'. I think New Zealand's fallen in to that trap at previous World Cups."

Hansen will be looking for signs this season that his established test players still have the same drive they did in the build up to the 2011 tournament.

"When you've had success sometimes it's hard for certain people to replicate the sacrifices needed to go and do that. That's one of the things we have to work hard at," he said. "We've got to make the challenge so exciting and so big that people want to make the same sacrifice they made in 2011 when we would've done anything to win the thing.

"I don't know if you need new blood necessarily, but you need people there who will do whatever it takes. That's about the coaching staff and the rest of the management creating an environment that will drive the challenge to the point where people realise if they don't meet it they won't be in the group.

"One thing I know about this All Blacks team is the tougher the challenge the better they go."

Hansen said he would not be selecting larger wider training groups this season in a bid to widen the World Cup net, but said hooker and centre were "obvious" positions in need of some depth.

"We have to be patient in both positions. We have some young talent and with young talent you get some inconsistencies. But we don't have to finalise the World Cup squad until August 2015 so we've got time.

"It's about nurturing that talent to a point where you can rely on them to perform to the highest quality on a consistent basis."

Though Dane Coles is growing into the hooking role, ageing veterans Keven Mealamu and Corey Flynn are the only other internationally proven alternatives, while at centre Conrad Smith is the only convincing test option.

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"It's about making sure we get those selections right in the first instance.

"The secondary decision is are they performing well in the international arena, and, if not, we have to have some discussions."

Hansen, who expects injured Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden to be fit and available, said an improving England presented a genuine threat in June.

"We know England are better than us at some things, the same in other things and worse in other areas. They'll be a big challenge and we need to get our game right. We can't let our minds drift off [to the World Cup] and expect it to happen. We will have to take the game to the English."

- Wellington

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