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20 Nov 2017 8:49
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby

    ABs working overtime to prepare new props

    The All Blacks, shorn of their first-choice propping stocks, are doing all they can to prepare the likes of Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala for Test-level rugby.


    All Blacks scrum guru Mike Cron has been compelled to delve deep into his set-piece "box of tricks" to prepare an inexperienced front row for the rigours of this year's Rugby Championship.

    With Charlie Faumuina France-bound and regular starters Joe Moody and Owen Franks sidelined with injury, the Kiwi pack has taken on a decidedly green tinge.

    The starting props for this weekend's clash with South Africa - Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala - have played eight Tests between them, while reserve tighthead Ofa Tu'ungafasi has been capped just seven times.

    Of the side's props, only Wyatt Crockett has any genuine experience at the Test level, pulling on the black jumper 64 times.

    It all amounts to plenty of overtime for Cron.

    "Challenges like this are forcing him to really go into his box of tricks and make sure he's got people up to speed," head coach Steve Hansen said.

    "He's got a bit of talent to work with too - it's not as if we're bringing in people who can't play. We're happy that we've got good enough scrummagers, so our set piece is okay, and they're good at the lineout.

    "We can't just panic, we've got to back them and believe in them."

    The Chiefs-based Hames will make his first Test start in Albany, having come off the bench in two Bledisloe Cup fixtures in 2016 and 2017.

    He's leapfrogged Crockett for the No.1 jumper, with Hansen preferring to retain the 34-year-old in his customary role as impact substitute.

    Hansen said that, while Hames still had plenty to work on in his all-round game, he was a destructive scrummager and better suited to starting.

    Hames, meanwhile, always had a starting Test berth in his sights.

    He was now focused on moulding himself into the All Blacks system, with players like Dane Coles, Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick around him.

    "The culture's pretty special here, where they make you feel like you deserve to be here and that you can perform when needed," the 29-year-old said.

    "When you're on the outside, you have your goals and your dreams and work towards wanting to be an All Black, it's intimidating. But once you're in the environment, it's probably the most special environment in the world.

    "It's not an earn-your-place-boy type of mentality."


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