All Blacks: Hansen expecting Carter to return

By Patrick McKendry of APNZ in Buenos Aires

Steve Hansen talks to Dan Carter during an All Blacks training session held at St. George's College in Buenos Aires. Photo / Getty Images
Steve Hansen talks to Dan Carter during an All Blacks training session held at St. George's College in Buenos Aires. Photo / Getty Images

A fit-again Dan Carter and a clinical training run completed, Steve Hansen's week is progressing nicely as his side prepare for what will be one of their toughest tests of the Rugby Championship.

All Blacks coach Hansen is expecting Carter to return for Sunday's test against Argentina at La Plata, near Buenos Aires, and the experience of the 30-year-old will be crucial to his side's quest for the victory which will wrap up the series with a match against the Springboks in hand.

"He came through today's session pretty well," said Hansen of Carter, who has missed the last two tests, victories over South Africa in Dunedin and Argentina in Wellington, due to a calf injury. "We pulled him out after about 45 minutes and he wasn't overly happy about that, he wanted to do a bit more, so that is a good sign.

"He's training like he's ready to play, so as long as he continues to progress he'll be playing."

The All Blacks got through plenty of quality work at the private school in the Argentine capital this morning. It followed an easy day yesterday in which the players recovered from their long-haul flight and Hansen was impressed with what he saw.

"It was probably the best run we've had all year. I'm not sure why, probably the coaches got it right, the players got it right, and it just came together nicely.

"We don't have to change a lot, we just have to tinker a little ... and I think that's why we trained so well today. We're not changing many things, we're just trying to get better and that's why it clicked into place."

At the press conference at the team's hotel, which was attended by many Argentine journalists, Hansen began by talking of his excitement at being in their "lovely" country and compliments about their team soon followed.

"It will be a very noisy crowd which will stimulate the Argentines and it has to stimulate us as well. We have to get excited by that.

"Their defence is very good. I don't think they've had a try scored against them in the first half of their last three test matches. We need to score early and put them under pressure otherwise they're going to stay in the game and it will be a real battle.

"Their problems in the past is that they haven't had a chance to play in a consistent competition other than World Cups or when a touring side might come through in June. So having access to this competition and particularly the quality of teams in it, you've got three of the top ranked sides in the world in it, all you'll see from the Pumas is they will get better and better.

"What will expect them to bring? What they've brought to every game so far - real physicality, real enthusiasm, big heart and they started to use the ball a bit more against Australia and looked really dangerous so they might get some confidence out of that and play a bit more rugby.

"They just have to play for 80 minutes. They're giving themselves plenty of opportunities to win games. The intensity of the games they're not used to. Playing the opposition they're playing and that last 20 minutes there's a lack of concentration and all of a sudden a lead or an opportunity goes missing. But with quality of opposition they've got in this competition they're going to improve in that area and they're going to be very hard to beat."

* Patrick McKendry flew to Argentina courtesy of LAN Airlines (www.lan.com).

- APNZ

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