x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

All Blacks coach Henry has pleasant problem

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has a problem every other rugby union national team manager would love to have: which tried and true player must he leave out of his World Cup squad?

Graham Henry has a problem that every other rugby union national team manager would love to have: which tried, tested and battle-hardened players to leave out when he names his 30-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.

That eight of the New Zealand coach's frontline performers have been left behind for the South Africa leg of the Tri Nations gives an indication of the strength in depth Henry has at his disposal.

Steve Hansen, the assistant coach, said this week that some tough decisions will have to be made, particularly the back three - the fullback and the two wingers - and the loose forwards - the No 8 and the two flankers.

"All our back three have come into excellent form at the same time, but you can't fit nine into six, so three guys are going to have to miss out, which is tremendously sad," Hansen said at a new conference in Port Elizabeth.

The rugby talent pool in New Zealand is such that the world's top-ranked team are again favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. However, the Kiwis have been tournament favourites many times before, but last won the trophy in 1987. They will be under enormous pressure to take the title in their own country when the competition kicks off on September 9 at Auckland.

With their reputation as World Cup chokers, it is probably true to say that the team most likely to beat the All Blacks are the All Blacks themselves.

The whole of New Zealand will be hoping Henry gets it right.

 

sentwistle@thenational.ae