The change that Hansen needs to make

The Man in the Stand June 17, 2014, 11:41 am
NZRU running out of excuses

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Injury will force Steve Hansen to make a critical change for the third test against England.

But common sense should bring about an even more important one.

Conrad Smith’s broken thumb means wonder-kid, Malakai Fekitoa looks likely to take the centre berth ahead of Ryan Crotty.

I hope so given the series has been won and Fekitoa has a glittering future ahead of him.

But the change I most want to see is simply based on merit and involves a straight swap.

Beauden Barrett deserves a start ahead of Aaron Cruden.

Since Cruden recovered from his broken thumb injury about a month ago, returning to the Chiefs and then two tests for the All Blacks, his confidence and in turn, his usual precision have not been seen in full bloom.

Loyalty is an admirable trait but when loyalty becomes totally blind, logic needs to take over.

The only times Barrett has started for the All Blacks have both been at fullback.

He has always given the impression that the more confidence shown in him, the more he’s likely to repay that faith with his genuine game-breaking ability.

There was no better example of this than in Johannesburg last year when coming off the bench, Barrett and his express pace saved a try, set up a try and scored a try in that memorable 38-27 win over the Springboks.

I’d also like to see Barrett given the opportunity to shine in a test in the No. 10 jersey from the kick-off before Dan Sabbatical Carter is almost certain to command the first-five position back as of right, as opposed to form.

Carter may well prove that both Barrett and Cruden must remain pretenders to his throne for a while yet but it can only be of benefit to Steve Hansen and his future thinking to see Barrett given the same opportunity as Cruden has received.

Hansen may also take this opportunity this dead-rubber opportunity to impose further rotation.

He may start with props, Charles Faumuina and Wyatt Crockett and even consider giving T.J. Perenara the temporary nod over Aaron Smith.

There is still a shred of mystery over Kieran Read’s predicament but if he returns, the odds are that Liam Messam will be benched.

Ma’a Nonu will be retained as it appears will be the back three, assuming Julian Savea is 100 per cent fit.

Even if Israel Dagg or Charles Piutau were injury-free, which they aren’t, how could any consideration possibly be given to changing Ben Smith from fullback after that extraordinary performance in Dunedin.

It’s no wonder the All Black hierarchy have expressed the collective opinion that Smith is now considered their Most Valuable Player.

Whatever the changes made, we can be assured that Hansen will be dead keen that this impressive English outfit take away no bragging rights from this tour in terms of results.

Your thoughts please.

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