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Barrett compared to Nicky Allen by Hansen

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Lynn McConnell     08 Sep 2016     Getty Images

As the All Blacks were in Hamilton preparing for Saturday's Investec Rugby Championship Test against Argentina, Barrett has extended his hold on the starting jersey to four Tests.

Hansen said Barrett had probably exceeded the selectors' expectations in getting to the point where he could not be overlooked as the starter, ahead of Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga, who were both still working well as they awaited their chance.

"He's got there a bit quicker than we thought and I think that's helped through his franchise team the Hurricanes playing right through that period of quarter-finals, semi-finals and final and he's been exposed to that pressure and having to drive his team around the park.

"If you think back to the weather conditions, they weren't the best. He had to really step up and own that and he did it really well and I think he's taken some real confidence out of that and that's allowed him to take his game to another level.

"We know he's got a great running game but just having that confidence to step and drive a ship like he has I think he's improved his game," he said.

Hansen compared Barrett's speed with Allen who had similar speed to Barrett's and that allowed him to take advantage of things that he sees.

"He probably doesn't see more things than other people, he's just got that out-and-out gas," he said.

But the job was still ahead of the All Blacks to contain an Argentina team that was growing in confidence and results and that was why the selection for the Test had been made.

"We've got to continue growing people. We've got a young group from an experience point of view, we've got a young group from a leadership point of view, so giving them the opportunity to keep rolling and driving things is a better reward for us than giving an individual some game time.

"Those guys are growing well in the environment and when the time is right we will put them out there," he said.

Hansen said the All Blacks respected Argentina, they had been a formidable opponent for a long time and it had been tough to beat them at last year's World Cup.

They appeared to have achieved the mindset needed on how they wanted to play their game.

"They've always been very combative up front but I've always thought they've had really talented backs and probably haven't used them as much as that talent warrants. They seem to want to use the ball, they're good on the off-load and their forwards off-load in the tackle as well so they're very difficult to contain because of that and they seem to be a happy group," he said.

The breakdown was an essential area in any Test match and Argentina had confined New Zealand to a 35 percent rate of lightning quick ball from rucks in their last clash, while the All Blacks had operated at 50 percent in the two Tests against Australia.

"We were successful against Australia getting the ball at the speed we wanted it, whether we're allowed to do that with the Argentinians and the way they want to play we'll have to wait and see.

"If we do what we need to do well then that'll put pressure on them. That pressure could look like penalties or it could look like us getting quick ball. If we do that then we'll be happy," he said.

So far as the All Blacks development has been going, Hansen said he felt there had definitely been an improvement in the leadership. The players had taken the bull by the horns and the collective unit was operating very, very well with a lot of flexible thinking while loving the challenge.

On the training field he felt the week's work was being set up well and it was the players who were driving the standards the team aspired to, he said.

"We're not the finished product this group, the more experience they get the better they're going to be," he said.

The side had faced pressure in the first two Tests against Wales and had come through a different sort of pressure in the second Test against Australia and they had taken plenty from those experiences.