Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Carter ready for return

Hansen leaves forwards in no doubt about what is required for an explosive encounter

The All Black coach is confident Dan Carter will recover from the injury that ruled him out of the last two tests. Photo / Getty Images
The All Black coach is confident Dan Carter will recover from the injury that ruled him out of the last two tests. Photo / Getty Images

Steve Hansen is relieved to have one crucial individual back in the fold but knows his side has to deal with other problems against the Pumas to seal the Rugby Championship on Sunday.

Yes, Dan Carter is likely to return from a calf injury to a side which probably won't carry too many changes from their victory over the Springboks in Dunedin a fortnight ago, but All Black coach Hansen has left his forwards in no doubt about what is required for what will be an explosive encounter at the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata.

Shifting bodies is what the All Blacks are all about now - it frees up the ball and assists them in the type of free-running game they want to play.

With powerful young locks Luke Romano, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, and No8 Kieran Read, on board it rarely appears overly difficult, but Hansen saw enough in a narrower-than-expected 21-11 victory in Dunedin to warrant a big change in attitude.

"Our clean-out was very, very average against South Africa. We pride ourselves on that because we want quick ball. So if you're not doing that part of the game it's either your ball carrier or the guys coming to the breakdown making poor decisions. Either they're too high or not anticipating what's happening. It's something that you can fix pretty quickly if you put your mind to it.

"We did a bit of it at the end of training today and it will be a focus this week, because we're going to have to be pretty good at it against this crowd. They're going to try to slow our ball down, as do every team.

"The problem we had against South Africa was we were wasting too many men on one person [in the clean-out]. We have a policy of one man, one bullet. If you're wasting three or four bullets on one bloke, you run out of ammo. Not good."

The Pumas are an extremely good defensive team, despite their relative inexperience against top-class competition.

Hansen relayed a statistic which put their run in perspective. Their best result in this competition is a 16-all draw against South Africa in Mendoza and they went extremely close to upsetting Robbie Deans' Wallabies on the Gold Coast.

And yet ... a boisterous crowd and a dose of determination can do wonders for a team with plenty to prove and Hansen believes they may search for a different way to create problems for the All Blacks.

"They'll bring some new stuff. You just can't keep doing what you always do. Watching them play Australia, they used the ball a lot more. That may have been because the conditions were good.

"In Wellington neither side really had the opportunity to play the way they wanted to play."

As for Carter, Hansen is confident the 30-year-old will recover from the injury that ruled him out of the All Blacks' last two tests, victories over Argentina and South Africa.

And why are Hansen and co so keen to get him back despite the claims of Aaron Cruden? It's all about the numbers.

"One guy's played a handful of tests [14] and the other guy has played just about 100 [89]. The experience factor is huge."

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

- APNZ

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