All Blacks relishing selection scrap
June 14, 2010
Israel Dagg provides another option at fullback for the All Blacks © Getty Images
The All Blacks' coaches are relishing the selection headaches that have cropped up as they prepare to face Wales in Dunedin on Saturday.
With six debutants performing well in last weekend's 66-28 rout of Ireland in New Plymouth there are several positions up for grabs, notably at fullback and in the centre. Highlanders No.15 Israel Dagg was superb on his Test bow but faces competition from the ultra-experienced Mils Muliaina, while Richard Kahui could put pressure on the Blues' Benson Stanley.
Both Muliaina and Kahui came through a club game for Te Rapa with no further injury scares and are in with a shot against the tourists.
"It's only difficult when you don't have people to select from," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "Now our opportunities have grown because we've got more quality people to choose from," assistant coach Steve Hansen said.
"If Mils is not 100% then we won't pick him. If Kahui is not 100% then we don't have to pick him. We're not being forced into making selections because we don't have depth.
"That was one of the pleasing things, everyone who started last week said 'we're of All Black quality'. They've put a line in the sand and they've got to continue doing that every time they play."
Whoever gets the nod at Carisbrook, they will be in for a tough examination against a fired-up Wales side under the tutelage of spiky Kiwi Warren Gatland. Hansen, who coached Wales at the 2003 World Cup, is expecting a few of Gatland's now patented verbal barbs in the build-up.
"I wouldn't expect Warren to be any different. I look forward to what he's got to say," Hansen said with a smile. "Having been involved with the Welsh I know it plays heavy on their minds that they haven't won for a long time. It's something they really want to achieve. Their mindset will be to come out here and try and dominate us up front. That's where every Test match is won."
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