Richard Loe 's Opinion

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Hansen risks a false start

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Steve Hansen. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Steve Hansen. Photo / Mark Mitchell

If Steve Hansen thinks he's going to get misfiring All Blacks such as Piri Weepu, Ali Williams and Ma'a Nonu playing well again just by selecting them for the All Blacks, I think he is kidding himself.

All right, a player like Cory Jane didn't fire last year and still came up trumps when selected for the World Cup. Hansen is right about that.

But ... just a minute. There was a guy called Graham Henry in charge then and a fella by the name of Wayne Smith in charge of the backs. Hansen took the forwards.

Henry and Smith have been replaced by Ian Foster and Aussie McLean. I had an old friend come down from the Waikato the other day and he made the valid point that the current Chiefs coaching set-up is getting a great deal more out of essentially the same players than Foster did (with only a few new faces) over a period of years.

McLean doesn't have what you might call a stellar coaching record either.

So to load up your first All Black squad with players of undoubted ability - and we must say that Nonu, Weepu and Williams are all very good players - who are not playing well at the moment seems misguided and dangerous to me.

If you lose to Ireland or are even pushed very close, that is not a good start to your All Black coaching career - and Hansen has a contract for only two years.

There are a lot of players in form and doing well in Super Rugby and, really, that is our only guide to form and entry to the All Blacks. Take Nonu's position, for example. Sonny Bill Williams, Tim Bateman and Shaun Treeby are all playing better than Nonu, not to mention some bloke called Dan Carter at 12.

There is a possibility that they will select Nonu but not play him, resting him after playing non-stop for well over a year as he went to Japan straight after the World Cup.

Judged on his play for the Blues against the Hurricanes on Friday night, I'd say he is suffering from fatigue, as he did some dumb and ill-disciplined things (like his no arms shoulder charge).

So if he's not going to play, why not give the chance to be in the All Black environment to one of the form players; someone who might be called on if Nonu and/or Williams get injured?

To take the example of the Chiefs again, the new players who have come in have been absorbed into an environment set by coach Dave Rennie, with Wayne Smith and Tom Coventry, and where the senior players have really banded round the new guys. The result is that some of the newer players have shone.

I'll give you another example: prop Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen from the Hurricanes. When I saw him at the start of the season, I feared for his life. All right, his scrummaging might only be adequate now but he does a lot of great work round the field and has really marked himself as a prospect for the future.

That's what you can get when you introduce the right new blood the right way - and that goes for the All Blacks as well, as has been proven countless times.

While we are on coaching, I am afraid any moves to keep Pat Lam at the Blues, even in a more junior position, would be misguided as well.

I have nothing against Lam but if I was asked to assist at the Blues while he was still there, I would say no.

The mindset of that team is really poor. They didn't even know how to capitalise on their scrum prowess against the Rebels to win that game and I am afraid the taint has gone too far. The Blues might need to remodel their coaching structure completely and come up with something more like the Chiefs' structure but, for my money, Lam would not be part of it.

- Herald on Sunday

Richard Loe

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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