Brodie Retallick’s inclusion in the starting lineup to face Ireland after his recent return from injury shows how much the All Blacks value the star lock.
Retallick admitted to teammates that he was nervous upon his return for the match against Namibia, after being out of action with a shoulder injury since the drawn Test with the Springboks in July.
While Hansen admits that Retallick is fit enough to play the full 80 minutes against the Irish, the probability of him doing so is unlikely.
‘Brodie is a bit of a freak when it comes to fitness,’ said Hansen of the 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year. ‘He’s got a big motor. He has an ability to play off long or short breaks. It’s all about how long we have to play him, or want to play him.
‘We are very fortunate that we have also got Scott Barrett, a very good player in his own right, so we have the ability to inject some fresh legs into the game at some point.
‘Those fresh legs could be the difference-makers. We’re very fortunate with our bench. It’s strong and has been for a long time. When you look at that experience on the bench, it does give you a bit of confidence.’
Hansen won’t, however, be able to call on the experience of midfielder Ryan Crotty and utility back Ben Smith, with both veterans left out of the match-day squad altogether. Hansen has instead decided on the reliable duo of Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue as his centres, with youngsters Sevu Reece and George Bridge selected on the wings. Rieko Ioane again misses out on selection, further displaying how much depth Hansen has at his disposal.
‘You come down to having more people good enough to start than you have to leave out,’ commented Hansen on the midfield selection. ‘In this case, Ryan [Crotty] has missed out but that doesn’t mean to say that if we are fortunate enough to go further into the tournament that he won’t make the next team.’
Hansen has the option to call on both Sonny Bill Williams and the versatile Jordie Barrett, who started at flyhalf against the Namibians.
‘Bender [Ben Smith] has been playing pretty well too. So has Jordie and his extra string is that he’s a big goal-kicker and can kick goals from well inside his own half, or drop-kick goals from halfway at the drop of a hat.’
Codie Taylor is named to start at hooker ahead of the feisty Dane Coles, who will provide impact off the bench. The dual playmaker selection of Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett will come up against Ireland for the first time, having not featured in the two defeats by Joe Schmidt’s men.
‘Twelve months ago, we were picking two people together,’ continued Hansen. ‘Richie was one of them. He came on in the Dublin game.
‘We used Damian McKenzie in a number of Test matches with Beaudy. It’s something we have been playing with for a while. We’re pretty comfortable with it.
‘Both of them are playing well and it’ll be a great opportunity to see how far we’ve come with them on Saturday.’
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