Do not mess with success is the principle invoked by Coach Steve Hansen as the All Blacks prepare for the second Test with France at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Hansen has often used new blood when faced with a lesser opponent, and face it; every opponent is a lesser one when faced with the prospect of playing New Zealand in New Zealand, or someplace other than New Zealand, for that matter.
In Test number one, the ABs did not exactly scorch in Auckland, but by the end of the game, it was 52 – 11 in favour of the Kiwi side.
In retrospect, it might appear as though New Zealand were firing, but on a squad where expectations of perfection are routine, the first Test match of the season revealed some sloppiness on the part of the 23 Hansen picked, so he is using the same players in order to tidy things and clean up the crumbs at the Cake Tin.
“As we have a big focus right now on developing our game and working on our skillsets, connections and combinations, it isn’t beneficial to be making wholesale changes, if any at all, to the playing 23,” Hansen said, in a statement.
Since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Hansen has been known to jigger with his lineup in order to feed the system, but there have been times when his moves were not completely voluntary, forced by retirements and injuries.
If Hansen were to stay with the same 23 over an extended period, it would no doubt cause some migraines for opposing coaches ahead of World Cup 2019.
With the list at his disposal currently and the talent waiting in the wings, almost anyone could coach the All Blacks and give a strong impersonation of a rugby coaching wizard.
Smarter still would be the person who could keep reps of French Top 14 from dangling huge cheques in front of All Blacks looking to strike while the iron is hot. There might even be a brochure or two involved.
One with a guide map to the French wine regions and another with a guide on how to pick up French women.