Classic derbies haven’t caused All Blacks many headaches
James Mortimer 26 May 2014 Getty Images
The final squad for the Steinlager Series will be named by head coach Steve Hansen, assistant coach Ian Foster and selector Grant Fox on June 1.
Indeed, the quality of the rugby would have brought many a smile to the All Blacks coaching staff, blockbusting encounters with high stakes showing how intense matches between New Zealand Conference opposition can be.
The players themselves have said in the past that the brutal nature of the ‘mate versus mate’ contests can take a real toll, and it was interesting to see many who had been mingling during the first training camp put aside their national bonds for the sake of their respective franchises.
The Crusaders (37), Hurricanes (36) and Highlanders (36) are in second, fifth and sixth position respectively to remain firmly in Investec Super Rugby Finals Series contention.
The Chiefs after the remainder of the round’s results sit in eight position.
The Blues are in tenth spot, and need to win all of their remaining four matches with bonus points to sneak into the top six.
The only concern at this stage is Hurricanes prop Ben Franks, a second half casualty in Wellington with a groin injury, Crusaders back Ryan Crotty who took a blow to his hip, and the reigning IRB World Player of the Year Kieran Read, who is recovering from flu.
However Read, who hasn’t played for over a month, is believed to be literally ‘ready to go’ meaning that at a pinch the All Blacks selectors could name him in the squad to play England at Eden Park.
Head coach Hansen said last week there would be no experiments for the All Blacks, although Foster said the first Steinlager Series clash could allow for the World Champions to tinker slightly with selections.
England will arrive in two waves, with the bulk of their squad arriving in a week’s time, while the second contingent consisting Northampton and Saracens players (who will contest the Premiership Final) will probably touch down in New Zealand on the eve of the opening Test.
Fears of a weaker English team are far from the mark, with a maximum of nine Test players unavailable to Stuart Lancaster from the Saints and Sarries.
The glass half full side is that with the completion of European competitions over the weekend, the squad for the first Test will be well rested, while their All Blacks counterparts have one more round of Investec Super Rugby to navigate.
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