Hansen's holiday surprise - a special camp for his Lion tamers

By Gregor Paul in Paris

Expectations among the All Blacks coaches are going to be running higher in 2017 which is why they are going to hold a training camp in January which will be used to make a number of things clear.

Around 40 players - all those who were involved with the All Blacks this year and a handful of injured warriors such as Sonny Bill Williams, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Nepo Laulala and Nathan Harris - will gather up for a few days in summer and map out the next six months.

There will be fitness testing, gameplan clarity and a blueprint laid down for how the All Blacks plan to evolve and develop their game for the three test series that is threatening to be bigger than Ben Hurr.

Long before the All Blacks were beaten by Ireland and England developed so impressively under Eddie Jones, Hansen knew the Lions were going to be a difficult team to beat.

He thinks they will be one of the best composite sides in many years and he is determined that his All Blacks side won't be caught cold in the first test as sometimes happens in June in other years.

June can be a problem - with players coming out of Super Rugby in a different mindset about what qualities matter and others having failed to meet basic conditioning standards.

The camp is really about ensuring everyone understanding what they will have to do physically and mentally to hit the ground running in June.

"It's a well-being camp, let's call it that," Hansen said. "Which will be great because it will allow them to go into Super Rugby in the best nick that we can possibly get them into at that point.

"Sometimes you get the luxury of allowing players to go through the June series and getting them in the right condition. They have got to turn up in the right condition.

"They are probably going to be the best Lions team to come down for a long time, with what they have got to select.

"We have put a lot of work into what we want to and know we are going to have to redevelop our game a little bit. The important part is transitioning these guys back into their franchises, making sure they get a good offseason so they are fresh and ready to go. We just can't afford anyone to be behind the eight ball in June."

The recent results in the November tests have only reiterated how physical players in the North are how much work they have put into their pass and catch since the last World Cup. Not only did Ireland beat the All Blacks, they beat the Wallabies too and probably Scotland should have had they stayed calm in the last minute.

England are unbeaten this year and a side drawn from the best player from those countries and Wales is going to have to considerable talent.

As a general rule, the All Blacks will let individuals play for their clubs against the Lions where they can - but those games scheduled for nearer the test series, decision haven't yet been made about who can and can't be released.

- NZ Herald

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