Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Steve Hansen excited by new All Blacks era

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images.

The answers are developing for All Black coach Steve Hansen as his focus begins to taper towards the test series with Wales.

There were opportunities because of injuries to some players and questions about their return for the three tests in June.

One search area was on the wing because Nehe Milner-Skudder was out for some time after shoulder surgery and Waisake Naholo was still on the uncertain list about his return from a broken leg.

Others like rising wing Johnny McNicholl were being targeted by overseas clubs while Hansen hoped a lucrative television broadcasting deal would retain more players and boost the standards in Super rugby and internationals.

It was time to rule off the All Blacks World Cup triumph and begin a new era and Hansen was excited by those challenges.

"There are two things here, I think," said Hansen.

"World Cup year we finish early so players get a proper pre-season, 16 weeks - every other year they only get 12 - so I think there's a lesson there for all of us.

"Maybe we could look at giving them a little bit more and extending their pre-season for them.

"The benefits are when they come back into Super rugby they are going to play well and be fresh when they come back into the All Blacks.

"The other thing I think that is helping them is there is a genuine excitement among the senior guys about stepping up and taking over from the people who I call the shadows."

Those were distinguished All Blacks like Conrad Smith, Kevin Mealamu, Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter who had moved overseas or retired.

Those massive rugby trees had gone and it was time for others to step out into the sunlight and take over the senior group was excited about doing that. Whenever great players ended their careers, somebody would step up.

Openside flanker Sam Cane was not Richie McCaw and the All Black selectors did not expect him to be.

However they wanted Cane to play to his best potential and that was a challenge the flanker should relish. It was his time to enhance the All Black jersey and that challenge created massive excitement.

- NZ Herald

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