WELLINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made no secret of the way he prepares for the Rugby World Cup and the selection of 19 additional players to join his squad ahead of their test against Japan next month is the continuation of a long-standing policy.
With at least 22 players heading to England early to prepare for their clash with Eddie Jones’ team, the additional players, 10 of whom are uncapped at test level, will join the rump of the main 32-man squad in Tokyo to prepare for the Japan match.
They will return home following the Nov. 3 clash in Tokyo, while the remaining main squad members travel to London to rejoin their team mates.
The extended numbers give Hansen the opportunity to try out personnel and tactics, as well as get used to the conditions they will face at the World Cup in Japan next year.
He will also be able to see which players are able to step up to test level and if they can handle the pressure that comes with playing for the world champions.
“Bringing in the wider squad players 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,” he said.
The policy has been a consistent one, with the coach routinely bringing uncapped Super Rugby players into training camps ahead of home test matches.
Hansen has also brought along “apprentice” players on end-of-season tours, giving the likes of loose forward Ardie Savea and fullback Jordie Barrett the chance to prove they would not be out of their depth at test level if called upon.
Injuries also resulted in considerable turnover for the side last year.
Hansen took 44 players on their end-of-season tour, allowing flyhalf Richie Mo’unga and centre Jack Goodhue to make their All Blacks debuts and stake their claims for places as regulars in the main squad.
The extended squad named on Monday also includes experienced test players who have slipped down the pecking order like Luke Romano, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ngani Laumape, giving them a chance to force their way back into Hansen’s World Cup plans.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford