NZ locks’ absence a chance more than a risk’ – Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen feels the absence of first-choice locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock from next weekend’s Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires is an opportunity more than a risk.

The last time the pair were rested was in the side’s loss to Ireland in Chicago last year.

“It’s about the risk and reward really, if we don’t do things differently we are going to get to the end of the year and the three Test matches in the UK become extremely difficult because you’ve got tired athletes.

“That’s where we lost the game last year on the beginning of that tour,” he said.

Luke Romano also hadn’t been available for that game so with Scott Barrett playing his first Test and Jerome Kaino out of position as a lock, a decision they got wrong, he said.

Since then Barrett had got a lot of miles under his belt while Patrick Tuipulotu was back playing well for Auckland and Romano was playing well so the scenario was a little different this time, he said.

Kaino had been getting valuable game time with Auckland while Tuipulotu was regaining his confidence after what he been a tough 12 months for him.

“He’s hung in there well, he’s playing well I think in a team that’s struggling a little but he’s leading that team and doing his utmost on the park to lead it through his actions so he’s pretty good shape,” added Hansen.

“I had a good chat to him before and he’s excited. That’s where you want him, he’s a good athlete when he’s on song and we think he’s coming to that.

“We’re comfortable in our skin that these guys are good enough if they prepare well enough to play well so we’ll give ourselves a chance of winning the game.”