21 Jun 2017

Plenty of pondering but no surprises likely in AB's

1:43 pm on 21 June 2017

The 23-man squad will be named early tomorrow morning.

The only concern will be with a couple of players returning from injuries.

There would be nothing wrong with starting the same fifteen that ran out against Samoa last Friday, with of course the return of captain Kieran Reid who has recovered from a broken thumb.

Kieran Read tackled by Gareth Anscombe.

Kieran Read Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The only other area of contention would be at centre and on the wing.

Sonny Bill Williams and Anton Leinart-Brown worked well together against the Samoan's with Ryan Crotty the option as he's overcome a rib injury.

Coach Steve Hansen is expecting a barrage of high kicks from the Lions and wants his best catchers on the flanks meaning it'll probably be Israel Dagg and Julian Savea on the wings and Ben Smith at fullback, although Waisake Naholo impressed when the Highlanders took on the Lions.

Steve Hansen.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is unlikely to spring any surprises selection wise. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Most interest could be in the reserves with the All Blacks likely to have just three backs on the bench, TJ Perenara and either Aaron Cruden or Lima Sopo'aga along with a midfield-three quarter cover.

Would that person be Crotty, Leinart-Brown, Williams or even Jordie Barrett?

Beauden Barrett can also cover wing and fullback, Smith can cover wing and the midfield and Dagg can easily drop back to fullback.

The forward reserves would be straight forward with Nathan Harris, Charlie Faumuina, Wyatt Crockett, Scott Barrett and Ardie Savea.

The All Blacks have an outstanding record at Eden Park, but they're trying to dismiss that as a factor.

Saturday's first Test will played at the Auckland venue where the back-to-back world champions have won 37 successive Tests since 1994.

Last Friday's 78-0 romp against Samoa continued a streak which eclipses the next best run by a nation at a home venue - England's 22-match run at Twickenham until 2003.

The All Blacks have lost just twice in their last 57 Tests at a ground where the Lions must play twice, returning there for the third Test on July 8.

The second Test is in Wellington, where New Zealand haven't lost for 16 Tests.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster doubts the Lions will be overawed by the Eden Park record, believing it is little more than a statistical sidenote.

"It's not a record that means anything in itself. It adds another little variable to the game," Foster said.

"For us, we just love playing there. It's always been a special ground for New Zealand rugby as a whole.

"It's about playing well on a Saturday and that's what we've got to do if we're going to add to the legacy of Eden Park."

New Zealand's overall home winning streak stands at 46 in an unprecedented era of success since losing to South Africa in Hamilton in 2009.


37 - NZ at Eden Park, Auckland (1994-)

22 - England at Twickenham, London (1999-2003)

17 - Australia at Ballymore, Brisbane (1990-2000)

17 - France at Parc des Princes, Paris (1982-89)

16 - NZ at Westpac Stadium, Wellington (2004-)

14 - NZ at Carisbrook, Dunedin (1977-2000)

13 - NZ at Lancaster Park, Christchurch (1978-90)

13 - Scotland at Murrayfield, Edinburgh (1989-91).

-RNZ and AAP