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Hansen admits to headaches for back row, locks and wings

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James Mortimer     26 Jun 2012     Getty Images

Plenty of new players were introduced to the All Blacks setup, but there will be areas where Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox will need to work out coming into the Investec Rugby Championship.

As always there seems to be the eternal dilemma of wing selection, while there are further questions over the second and back rows.

While Richard Kahui is effectively out for the season, his World Cup winning wing partner in Cory Jane is expected to be back in contention for All Blacks selection soon.

Jane will enter a dogfight where Julian Savea, Zac Guildford, Ben Smith and Hosea Gear have all made claims over the last three-weeks.

Much will depend on how the All Blacks view their wingmen coming into the Rugby Championship, moving for powerful specimens like Savea or Gear, or more multi-purpose players like Jane or Smith.

Ali Williams will be able to time his comeback from injury almost to the commencement of the Rugby Championship squad, but the 75-test veteran now has young bucks in Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano in the selection circle.

Hansen has made it clear Williams’ experience is crucial, on and off the field, and it is likely that the Blues veteran is being used in a mentoring role during training sessions.

The All Blacks coach did flag it as the biggest concern with depth.

In the loose forwards Liam Messam had arguably his best game in an All Blacks jersey, meaning that there are three front-line candidates for blindside alongside Adam Thomson and Victor Vito.

Sam Cane’s brilliant starting debut eased some concerns for the All Blacks coaches.

"The pleasing thing about Sam Cane's performance is we now have someone who could go out and do that role and it gives us flexibility with Richard (McCaw),” Hansen said.

“If we want him to be there in 2015 then we now have a viable option to give him a breather."

While Cane played at openside, Hansen stressed McCaw was not about to start shifting around the back row, repeating his statements that the All Blacks captain was the best openside in the game and would be used in his preferred position.

There is technically no secondary option at number eight, as proved when McCaw shifted there to cover for Kieran Read – but Messam, Thomson and Vito have all played extensively off the back of the scrum.