Lawrence Dallaglio Praises Steve Hansen’s Oversized All Blacks Squad As ‘Smart Thinking’

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen speaking during a press conference
Kai Schwoerer / Getty Images

Steve Hansen has on Monday revealed an unusually large number of players will be involved in the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour this time around, with a total of 51 players named on the squad.

As reported by Stuff, Hansen was criticized last week for saying that the government could help to pay for the large group, with many questioning the necessity of have over 50 players involved in the five tests.

But former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio has come out in Hansen’s defense of the move. According to Dallaglio, it was the exact same tactic that helped win England the 2003 World Cup.

“One of the reasons England won the 2003 World Cup was because of the preparation and attention to detail undertaken by Sir Clive Woodward and his team in the year before the tournament. That included arranging tests in New Zealand and Australia in the summer of 2003 so that we would have experience of playing our two closest rivals in their own backyard. Hansen has named a 51-man squad. Thirty two of them will go to Japan and then 10 will fly back to New Zealand to rest, while the other 19 will join up with their team-mates for the European tour. Among those 19, he will hope to unearth another couple of diamonds like Jack Goodhue and Richie Mo’unga, young players who have established their credentials on the international stage in recent weeks. This is smart thinking.”

Hansen will take a group of 32 players to Japan to take on Australia in the third Bledisloe Cup encounter, before an additional 19 players will arrive in the country for the fixture against Japan, per Guardian.

In the meantime, 22 of the original players will travel to Europe before the Japan test to begin preparing for the traditional end-of-season tests against England, Ireland, and Italy. After the test against Japan, 10 players involved in that match will travel back to New Zealand, while the rest will continue on to Europe for the last three fixtures.

The move will allow Hansen and his coaching squad to vet more players ahead of the 2019 World Cup taking place in Japan next year, giving them a wider selection pool when September rolls around.

“Bringing in the wider squad players also allows us to grow our player depth and will expose them to the international arena, which we think will be great for their development and, in turn, will benefit New Zealand Rugby in the long term,” Hansen explained of his decision.

Next year’s World Cup sees the All Blacks lumped into the same pool as old enemies South Africa, a side that just recently shocked them to a 34-36 loss on home soil in Wellington, followed by an equally narrow win against the same side three weeks later in Pretoria. The New Zealand side are current defending champions of the World Cup title, having lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy for the third time in 2015 when they won the tournament in England.

Hansen has named Blues flanker Dalton Papali’i as the only uncapped player in the main squad. Papali’i comes in to bolster the loose forward pack following Sam Cane’s serious neck injury in the second test against South Africa. A further seven uncapped players have been named in the secondary squad: Props Tyrel Lomax and Reuben O’Neill, loose forward Gareth Evans, halfback Bryn Hall, five-eighth Brett Cameron, outside centre Matt Proctor and winger George Bridge.