All Blacks coach Steve Hansen would prefer NZ local derbies to be scheduled later in the Super Rugby season to help avoid the early spate of injuries to international players.

After only three weeks of play in the southern hemisphere competition, several national team candidates are already on the side-lines, rehabbing a variety of wounds suffered in the white-hot heat of battle.

The latest casualties from the latest round included Israel Dagg (knee) and Seta Tamanivalu (hamstring) from the Crusaders, Waisake Naholo (hamstring) and Lima Sopoaga (hamstring) from the Highlanders, Nehe Milner-Skudder (ankle) and Charlie Faumuina (back) from the Blues.

By co-incidence, governing body Sanzaar met over the weekend to debate the future format of a competition that may just have lost its way.


Hansen told Radio Sport's Martin Devlin that he was happy to leave those decisions to Sanzaar, but observed that the intensity of all-NZ derbies was taking a toll on under-prepared players, especially All Blacks coming off a mandated 12-week break.

"The derbies are good for our game, because the competition's great," he said. "I'd like to see them played a little bit later, as opposed to early in the competition.

"Derbies straight away probably don't help the injury rate. That intensity early one is pretty tough, if you haven't had much time to get ready to play.

"But they are good for the game and when you look at the quality of the rugby, I'm sure they'll maintain them. Whether they play home and away will be interesting, but that will be up to the guys running the show.

"I'm happy that the people at Sanzaar are aware of what all the issues are and they'll address those."

Hansen re-iterated the work being done to build depth with in the All Blacks squad to cover any lingering injuries ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour in June.

"It's a concern," he said, of the injuries. "But we can't control it, so it's no good worrying about it.

"We've just got to get on with getting them right and if they're not going to be right by the time the Lions are due to play us, then we have to make other selections."

"That's just part and parcel of the game of rugby. You're always going to have one or two injuries and it's unfortunate for them if they happen to miss out.

"You always know you're going to have some injuries, but you don't know who, so you can't really plan for replacements. Part of our ongoing programme is to try and build your depth in whatever position, so when it happens, you've got someone who can step in and it's not all brand new."

Of course, the Lions will inevitably suffer injuries too through the current Six Nations series, but Hansen was conscious that, drawing from four national sides, they will have ready-made numbers and strength to cover those absences.

"They're going to have a squad with real depth - that's been one of our advantages and they're going to be able to equal that.

"Both teams are going to start on equal footing and it will be won can cope with the pressure, and who makes the least mistakes and takes the opportunities when they arise ... that's going to be the challenge for us."