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Keith Quinn: Hansen's selections balanced and bold

opinion

By Keith Quinn

Published: 8:15AM Tuesday May 15, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

There ought not to be too many grumbles about the content of new All Black coach Steve Hansen's first squad of potential All Blacks for 2012 which was released this week.

Mind you with 35 men in the group there is room for everyone to be included - so far.

It is a very good start by Hansen but the crunch will come when the new coach runs his beady eyes over all of the talent at their two-day conflab when the squad meets over the next weekend.

Then Hansen will see for himself which of the players have been shirking it over the early stage of this year's Super 15 play. Then he will carve five slackers from his first list.

Basically we can all be satisfied that he and his co-selectors are being balanced at this point. In the 35-man group there are the remnants of the World Cup winning squad from last year plus Hansen is boldly adding in more than a whiff of new talent who have emerged in the early stages of this season.

My only carp is that there are too many players from the Blues squad in the team. Is that just me being disappointed that a team from our major population base is sadly not firing at all?

Their form so far in 2012 has been an embarrassment to the standards New Zealanders normally try to play to.

To see six Blues players rewarded with a trip to the first All Black camp seems somehow excessive, though perhaps it comes under the heading of 'maybe Steve Hansen can encourage the best out of the sad six.'

We shall see.

In looking back over All Black history there have been a number of significant occasions when 'new look' teams have run onto the field and the significance of the famous team colours has not been devalued at all.

The most famous time would have been in 1986 when the 'Baby Blacks' team of David Kirk ran out to play the Five Nations champions France in Christchurch.

There were only four 'capped' All Blacks in that squad (with only 19 Tests between them) yet they immediately understood why they were there wearing the silver fern emblem. It was innately understood!

The Babies put aside what more 'famous' players had done for New Zealand rugby in recent Tests and won the game from France with superior commitment and focused performance.

There have been many other examples of the exposure of depth in New Zealand rugby down the years - the rugby romantic in me hopes that 2012 might signal one of those years of renewal for the All Blacks.

There is no denying that 2011 was a wonderful year for our national game. The win in the seventh Rugby World Cup final meant rugby dreams came true for New Zealanders on so many levels.

Kids, young mums, proud older fans, excited youths, officials, old All Blacks from the glory days, and today's stars - and their selectors - all reveled in the glory of being kiwis together celebrating a golden year capped by a World Cup win.

But that was last year- and last year can never be repeated.

I say - consign 2011 to its place in history and let the Baby Blacks principle loose again! C'mon Steve - make YOUR statement about how YOU think the All Blacks might look in the years ahead - and take we excited fans along for the ride with you.

Scanning down the list of 35 players how about this as a starting team for the first All Black Test match of the year? Israel Dagg; Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane; Sonny Bill Williams, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read; Richie McCaw, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Adam Thomson; Ben Franks, Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks.

See the fresh look mixed in with only the very best of last year's winners?

My reserves would be; Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ben Smith; Victor Vito, Wyatt Crockett, Luke Romano and Andrew Hore (the last named only included because for some reason Mr. Hansen, you have left out Dane Coles and Hika Elliott! Were they not at home when you rang?).

The point is New Zealand rugby needs a new look right now; a complete change of image in fact.

This year is the only time to do it. By next year our All Black team will be one season closer to the preparations for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

And one thing is for sure; for that event the All Blacks will not be taking the likes of Nonu, Ali Williams, Weepu and co to that event. Father Time will have gathered them into his warm embrace.

So Mr. Hansen - well done for taking a kindly approach in your first announcement and taking in the old blokes from last year.

But be ruthless in your assessment of them. If they show just the teeniest smidgeon of being over the hump in their form or attitudes - bring in the new kids to replace them - the new boys have been inspired by what they saw last year and they want to step up now.

The cancer of The Blues must not be allowed to infiltrate the national team.

And if you make the switch now sir, I believe you will take your loyal New Zealand public with you!

Do you agree with the make-up of Keith Quinn's All Blacks team? Add your comment below.

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