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Scott Hansen offers insight into All Blacks' starting halves combination

By Ned Lester
Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett line up in the All Blacks attack. Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

With Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga now plying their trade in Japan, the All Blacks are on the hunt for a new starting halves partnership, and one man has been tasked with the golden selections.

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Assistant coach Scott Hansen is in charge of managing the All Blacks defence, while also specialising in the halfback and No. 10 positions; both key selections for such a dynamic attacking team against a staunch English defence.

Halfback was one of the most heavily contested positions for All Blacks selection throughout the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season, but as the finals neared, the three top candidates became more clear.

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TJ Perenara returned to his familiar physical, competitive and accurate self for the Hurricanes, Finlay Christie resumed his astute work for the champions in Auckland and young gun Cortez Ratima continued his impressive rise through the ranks at the Chiefs.

Perenara boasts the most experience, something the coaches value in what is a younger team following the World Cup exodus, but Christie is the only member of the current squad involved in last year’s World Cup campaign and has relationships with two of the players competing for the 10 jersey in Beauden Barrett and Stephen Perofeta. Ratima on the other hand best knows the unpredictable talent of Damian McKenzie, making selections a complex decision.

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Hansen outlined what he was looking for from the three candidates in the lead-up to the team’s opening Test of the year.

“The key thing there around the management is how they manage it,” Hansen told media in Wellington at the start of the opening Test week.

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“So, what do their weeks look like? How do they set the group up? Despite the (difference in) Test numbers, how do they lead during the week? They’re the things I’m looking at.

“I will say, TJ, his connection with the group, his ability to connect our game around our defence and attack has been really good this week.

“Young Cortez brings energy and excitement, a lot of smiles, massive energy on the field.

“And then with Fin, he’s just the ultimate professional around consistency and giving the roles that we need.

“So, we have three very good halfbacks we can choose from, just like we have three very good tens we can choose from.”

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Of those aforementioned tens, McKenzie is the favourite to land the starting gig given his form and age – the latter being something the coaches are clearly conscious of as they begin a new World Cup cycle.

For selections in the England series, Hansen said it would come down to whose skillset best suited the matchup.

“We look at the opposition, we look at their strengths, we look at the opportunities for us and the game we want to play and then we slide in the 10 we believe is going to give us the outcome we need.

“What I will say with Beaudy coming in, sitting down, the calmness, the clarity he gives, I’ve been so impressed with Beaudy.

“His care for the group; he’s a proud All Black and I’ve really enjoyed being around Beaudy for the first time.”

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Comments

21 Comments
B
Bull Shark 8 days ago

I’d be a worried England fan.

D
David 11 days ago

Well done England on releasing the team. Shows confidence and forward planning. No need to wait until Thursday.
Last time BB and DMac played together the former ignored the latter, even when he was clearly in winning positions. Looked deliberate. Play one or the other. They are competitors after all.

T
Thomas 11 days ago

Fk sake. Hansen sounds reasonably smart but if he picks TJ and Beauden in the halves, I’m very concerned.

Smith, Ollie Lawrence and Feyi waboso could have a field day.

B
Bret 11 days ago

Beauden is short of a run meanwhile DMac has had plenty of tough games in the last two months so DMac should get the nod based on consistency, form and game time in the saddle. Beauden would go well at either fullback or on the bench.

The big question is who plays at halfback. TJ is a fierce and chirpy competitor, Finlay has good form, and Ratima knows DMac the best.

J
Jon 11 days ago

Scott Hansen has been lumped with Beauden Barrett, and I think happily so. Leon MacDonald wouldn’t have wanted a bar of him after he had to coach (and select at 10) him with the Blues, and avoided picking him as his fullback in his back three group. That left Beauden to Hansen to pick, and from all the sounds he’s been making in his recent interviews, I think he’ll relish the chance to get his hands on Beauden Barrett and turn around his ability to lead the team around the field.

He’s a sucker for punishment. My predicted backline;
TJ Perenara
B Barrett
J Barrett
R Ioane
C Clarke
M Telea
D McKenzie

F Christie
S Perofeta
ALB

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