Henry to test strength in depth
June 15, 2011
Graham Henry is hoping that his side has the necessary strength in depth to win this year's World Cup © Getty Images
New Zealand head coach Graham Henry has revealed that he intends to make full use of his squad during this year's Tri-Nations campaign, meaning the likes of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter will not start every game.
With the World Cup now less than three months away, Henry wants to ensure that every member of his squad will have a significant amount of game time under their belts when the tournament commences. As a result, he plans to chop and change more regularly than usual during the Tri-Nations.
"It may be fullback, it may be 10, it may be seven, it may be the fourth lock," Henry said of his team selection policy. "We can't take the risk of going into sudden death rugby at the World Cup and having to play somebody who hasn't played a big Test match for all of 2011. I just think we need to be pragmatic there and make good decisions.
"Some might need to go out to pasture and have a bit of a rest, and others need football. It's just a matter of trying to do the best for each individual so they peak in mid-September and they hold on to that for as long as necessary. I think being very sensitive in doing that properly is going to be critical to how we perform."
Despite their undoubted status as one the number one team in the world, there is a commonly-held view that the All Blacks are overly reliant on fly-half Carter and skipper McCaw and that an injury to either player would prove severely detrimental to their hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil. Consequently, the need to find viable alternatives at No.10 and openside flanker is great.
However, Henry believes that the Kiwis have adequate cover, arguing that in the case of a quality understudy for Carter there is "more than one that could fit the bill and we will just have to see how that progresses over the next month or so".
Henry, admitted, though that in the event of losing McCaw to injury the All Blacks could opt to replace their talismanic skipper with a player who is not a specialist No.7.
"There's debate still about if you need a specialist or can Adam Thomson or Liam Messam or Kieran Read or somebody can play in that position," he said. "That's an ongoing discussion with the selectors."
Meanwhile, Henry admitted that he is closely monitoring Israel Dagg's rehabilitation from a thigh injury. The Crusaders fullback picked up the injury in his side's clash with the Stormers last month and is expected to be out of action for another five to six weeks.
"Our best guess is that he will be coming right perhaps near the end of July and he will need to play some ITM Cup and see how that progresses," he said. "I thought he was playing outstanding footy when he did the injury and we just have to wait and see how that responds."
New Zealand open their Tri-Nations campaign with a game against South Africa in Wellington on July 30. They begin their quest for World Cup glory against Tonga in Auckland on September 9.
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