All Blacks bolstered by fully fit squad

By Patrick McKendry of APNZ in London

The All Blacks have made the short trip to London from Paris, with lock Luke Romano in the reckoning to play England in what would be his first test since the Bledisloe Cup victory over Australia in Sydney in August.

After his side arrived in the English capital by Eurostar train this morning NZT, coach Steve Hansen reported no new injuries from the rugged 26-19 win over France at the Stade de France. In other positive news for Hansen, Romano's availability will give him a full complement of players to choose from as he plots the team's response to last year's shock loss at Twickenham.


"From a physical point of view I think we're in great shape,'' he said. "Mentally I think we're in great shape. There is a massive desire within the group to strive to keep improving themselves. We had 12 of our 15 having their first game for three weeks [against France].

"We knew we probably wouldn't be as sharp as we could be and hence our timing at times, our running lines, weren't quite right. Some of that was the pressure France was putting on us but some of it was also a bit of rustiness of not playing every Saturday.

We've had that game and I'm expecting us to improve a lot on that performance.''

If Romano plays it is highly likely to be from the bench and he would probably replace Steven Luatua there for what will be a big physical English challenge. Elsewhere, Hansen must decide who plays at No10, although it would be a shock to see Aaron Cruden starting ahead of Dan Carter in the latter's 100th test.

The wings are another conundrum, with the in-form Charles Piutau and Julian Savea and Cory Jane vying for two spots.

When asked about his first-fives, Hansen said sentimentality wouldn't come into his selections.

"It's not about sentimentality, it's about picking the right team to play England, whether he's played 100 or 500 or zero. If he's the right person we'll pick him.

"It still hurts,'' he said of last year's 38-21 loss. "We don't like losing. It was a tough old day. We didn't have enough energy to compete with the English on the day and they outplayed us. It's something that we've had to hold on to for quite some time.''

Asked about the wish for revenge, he answered: "Revenge is not a word I think you should use in rugby. It's not about revenge it's about having an opportunity to see if you're good enough to beat them.

"They going along pretty good aren't they. They've clearly got a lot of confidence and believe in themselves. That's a pretty good point to start with.''



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