Rugby - NZ coach says to resist big changes for dead rubber test

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen will not make wholesale changes for the third and final Test against France despite the pressure being off for the All Blacks after they sealed the series 2-0 with a clinical 30-0 victory on Saturday.


Prior to the series, Hansen had said he would make calculated risks with the team and look to blood new players and give others like hooker Dane Coles and flyhalf Aaron Cruden the opportunity to get game-time.

Hansen on Sunday, however, suggested there would be no tinkering for tinkering's sake, even with his plans to rejuvenate the world champion All Blacks appearing well on track.

"It's all about risk and reward at the moment," Hansen told reporters in Christchurch. "The risk's not so high at the moment, we've won the series.

"The rewards of getting guys on the track and seeing how they go will be good (but) ... you can't just make wholesale changes and chuck people out there just because we've won the series.

"They'll be subtle (changes) if there are any at all."

Hansen's stance could mean players like uncapped blindside flanker Steven Luatua and inside centre Charles Piutau may not be used at all in the series which closes with the dead rubber match in New Plymouth.

However, flyhalf Daniel Carter, who suffered a non-displaced fracture in his hand and was ruled out of the first two matches, would be available for selection, Hansen confirmed.


Captain Kieran Read, who suffered a tremendous jolt to his back that forced him to his knees and to receive on-field treatment before halftime on Saturday, was still feeling the effects of the knock, while lock Sam Whitelock was nursing an elbow injury.

Hansen's re-building of the All Blacks ahead of their title defence at the 2015 World Cup has proceeded successfully to date, but the evolution has been felt not only in personnel but in the team's game plan.

Last year, the All Blacks played a high-tempo, wide game focused on quick ball to their backs and forwards working together to stretch defences across the field.

Faced with a tough defensive line from France in the first test in Auckland, they showcased a varied and accurate tactical kicking game on Saturday that turned the French defenders around and put them under pressure inside their own territory.

The All Blacks also avoided playing too much rugby from inside their own half, instead relying on high kicks, stabs behind the defensive line and long raking kicks into space to set up field position.

"You've got to have a kicking arsenal because everyone's just standing up flat and not going in the ruck," Hansen said.

"As ball carriers, you're committed to putting three or four players in there (the breakdown) and they might put one or two in there and the rest of them are flat-lining it.

"It's about challenging the spaces out there. If your kicking game is good, you can do that and force them to take people out of that front line. Then you can attack as well."

Hansen said he believed the French would still hope to salvage pride next week in New Plymouth.

"They're a bit more resilient than that. They're a very proud nation," he said.

"I think they will work hard to get themselves in a good mental state and physical state to play well on Saturday.

"The big thing is, we've got to stay humble, keep our feet on the ground and work just as hard so we get a performance that we can be proud of."

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