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Fekitoa ready for starting chance

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Lynn McConnell     19 Jun 2014     Getty Images

Having announced three changes to the side to play England in the final Test of the Steinlager series on Saturday with Malakai Fekitoa to make his starting debut at centre, Kieran Read returning at No.8 and Jerome Kaino moving to blindside flanker, Hansen said lifting the side's level to one they could be proud of had been their focus during the week.

"That's about getting our skill sets right across the park right, having the energy to play the game at high speed and high intensity for 80-odd minutes," he said.

Fekitoa had impressed with his fast learning and he was a good athlete who appreciated the chance he had been given, Hansen said.

Fekitoa said his selection had been a huge boost for him and his family and cause for something of a family reunion with his mother coming from Tonga for the game while a sister and a brother were flying in from the United States.

The man he is replacing, Conrad Smith, had been helpful with his advice leading into the game while Hansen said he would give Fekitoa his usual advice for a new cap.

And that was to go out and enjoy the occasion, knowing he had been picked for a reason and to trust himself and his instincts while concentrating on doing his own job.

"You don't have to make the big plays, you have just got to do the simple things well," he said.

Conscious that some had concerns about the Nonu-Fekitoa combination, Hansen said while they were similar players in some areas, in others they were vastly different. He felt they would be a good combination which would improve with time.

"There will be mistakes, we know that. But it's what we do when we make those mistakes and how quickly we repair it," he said.

"I think he's [Fekitoa] is going to be a special player and the guy inside him is already a special player. As long as they talk to each other during the game, and are reading what's in front of them, both defensively and attacking wise, then there shouldn't be too many problems."

Hansen said the selection thinking behind not giving Beauden Barrett a start at first five-eighths was that they didn't want to have two new combinations in midfield, either side of Nonu.

Aside from that he said Aaron Cruden had their trust to do the job.

He said it was still early in the season for the side and they were trying to rebuild combinations ahead of the Rugby Championship.

Hansen said the team came first but added that Barrett would get plenty of game time.

"He's been a fantastic player off the bench for us and when you think about all the Tests he's come on, he has made a difference and I'm not sure Crudes is that type of player either, he's more of a starting five-eighth. So it just fits the team and he'll get the opportunity, just like Ben Smith had to wait and when he got the opportunity he took it.

With Jerome Kaino replacing Liam Messam at blindside flanker, as Kieran Read rejoins the side at No.8, Hansen said it was a tough decision but Kaino was playing well. However, he said given Read's lack of matchplay since early May he would not play the whole game which would assure Messam of match time.

Read was very excited about getting back into playing and his training had reflected that.

England would be in 'a bit of a quandary', Hansen said, as they pondered their game play.

"They took us on in Dunedin at playing a game at real pace and worked out they couldn't. So what are they going to do now? Maybe, I've heard Stu [Lancaster] mentioned in the paper, they didn't want to play too much rugby down their end so maybe they're going to kick a wee bit more.

"They'll have a good plan because they're good coaches and we've just got to make sure we've got one to counteract it," he said.