5 Biggest Concerns for New Zealand Coach Steve Hansen in Rugby Championship
Most coaches would kill for the kind of problems Steve Hansen has.
The All Blacks purred into top gear against Australia on Saturday to hit 50 points, playing some thrilling rugby in the process.
They entertain Argentina next as they look to take a third consecutive Rugby Championship title and it would seem little could stop them.
There are, nevertheless, a few things to iron out for Hansen and his staff, which may come as some small comfort to the rest of the rugby world.
Three yellow cards in two games won’t keep Hansen up at night but he knows it is a sickness that mustn’t be allowed to spread.
Richie McCaw last got sin-binned when rugby was played in black and white, so his 10-minute rest for a silly hand on the ball while he was flat on his back will probably not be repeated again until he is retired and in his back yard mucking about with his kids.
But in tighter games, cards like that and those received by Ben Franks and Wyatt Crockett will cost New Zealand, and Hansen must stamp them out.
Ryan Crotty’s broken cheek has earned him a four-week layoff, while Ma’a Nonu should be fit to take back the place Crotty filled next week.
Elsewhere, Cory Jane hobbled off and Beauden Barrett rolled an ankle after coming on to replace Aaron Cruden.
None of these are major worries, but they are the most troubling knocks in the camp.
What does Hansen do when Dan Carter is fit? He is undeniably one of the greatest No. 10s ever to have played the game.
But in the here and now, can anyone honestly say he is in better form than Aaron Cruden?
The younger man is in wonderful nick and would be deemed unlucky to drop to the bench should Carter be parachuted straight back into the starting side.
They may be undefeated, but so far this year the All Blacks have blown hot and cold. Against England they were flat in the first Test and should have lost.
They were brilliant the following week and average in the third. They were poor in the rain in the opening week of the Rugby Championship, then found top gear at Eden Park.
Hansen will want to find the answer as to why they can’t maintain that level week after week.
5. Messam’s Form
Liam Messam was the obvious choice to replace Jerome Kaino at No. 6 once the Blues man was sidelined with an elbow injury.
But the Chiefs skipper looked out of sorts against Australia, spilling balls uncharacteristically and causing moves to break down.
Nothing wrong defensively but on this form he is hampering the All Blacks’ fluidity.