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12 May 2008 10:27
All Black coach Graham Henry is planning to stick with experienced players for next month’s Tests against Ireland and England despite the defection of some high profile candidates overseas.
Henry also backed the New Zealand Rugby Union’s policy of picking only domestically-based players for the All Blacks.
At least 10 of last year’s World Cup squad have been lured overseas by big money or are about to leave, but Henry told reporters on Monday he did not plan to introduce many young players to the All Blacks at this stage.
Henry said a number of young players had stood out during this year’s Super 14 competition, but he believed the best time to bring them in would be the end of year tour to Europe.
The demands of Super 14 rugby meant young players would need some recuperation time.
“So I don’t think you’ll see a whole host of 19, 20, 21-year-olds in the All Blacks,” he said.
But the selection of an enlarged squad to tour Europe would provide a better opportunity to give young players their first experience in the All Blacks.
The All Black squad for Tests against Ireland and England and the Tri-Nations series will be named on June 1, a day after the Super 14 final.
Henry said lock and inside centre were two positions that would be difficult to fill after the loss of leading contenders overseas.
“The middle row is a concern and I think we’ve still got some talking and viewing to do in that position,” he said.
“There’s not a lot of international experience at second five-eighth, so I guess they are the two major holes.”
Since the World Cup, the All Blacks have lost locks Chris Jack and the retired Keith Robinson and inside backs Luke McAlister and Aaron Mauger have joined Jack overseas.
New Zealand play Ireland in Wellington on June 7 and then face England in Auckland on June 14 and Christchurch on June 21.
But Henry is not tempted to allow overseas-based players to be selected for the All Blacks.
“If you open it up, a lot of players would leave because the money is obviously a lot more over there,” he said.
“It would affect our competitions, our Super 14 competition would decrease in value.”
But he backed the sabbatical proposal that would allow star players like flyhalf Daniel Carter to take up short-term contract overseas while remaining available for the All Blacks.
“As long as we try to keep rugby players in this country, I think it’s a positive—if that’s a goer for a particular player,” he said.
“It also gives them some time away from New Zealand to recharge.
Even though they’re playing rugby, it’s a different environment, so that could be a positive also.” - Sapa-AFP
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