Ross Karl: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen changes tune on Savea-Cane dual-flanker combo

OPINION: It's a simple lesson in sport - never say never. Eventually, it will bite you in the bum.

Just ask Benji Marshall or Jarryd Hayne. Both insisted they'd never play for NRL clubs other than the Tigers and Eels respectively, when they switched to other oval ball codes.

Alas, humbled by failed ventures, old NRL loyalties became empty and unrealistic sentiment.

Offers from the Dragons and Titans were on the table, and had to be taken, before they finally settled back at old stomping grounds.

You'd expect All Blacks coach Steve Hansen would be too street-smart to fall for the 'never say never' trick.

Coaches usually keep their options open publicly, so they don't eventually talk themselves into a corner and become shrouded in hypocrisy.

Yet, here we are. Less than two months out from a World Cup, Hansen has reneged on his conviction that Ardie Savea and Sam Cane wouldn't play at six and seven.

At the June 3 Foundation Camp in Christchurch, he was unequivocal, when asked about it. 

Now, Hansen has named them to start on the sides of the scrum in Saturday's Bledisloe Cup opener in Perth, with captain Kieran Read at eight.

While you could point at the surprising naivety of that original assertion and criticise him, the maturity Hansen's shown in eating those words is a far bolder statement.

For the good of the team, the All Blacks coach has swallowed pride over previously strongly held views.

That should be celebrated - it's a statement of intent that's stronger than his initial assertion.

The bonus for Hansen is it will be a popular choice. Fans have been begging for it.

It's also the obvious choice, considering the All Blacks resources.

Kieran Read is the captain. He will play and probably in his preferred position at eight. 

That leaves two loose forward spots.

Savea's offensive and breakdown prowess mean he's as good as any rugby player in the world. He must play as close to 80 minutes as possible.

Cane is a defensive powerhouse the All Blacks cannot do without. He must also start in the rugged early exchanges of test rugby.

So, it's simple - that's your trio.

The down side is Savea and Cane are both under 1.9m tall, which cuts down lineout options. The All Blacks must be more creative, with Whitelock, Barrett and Read the only renowned jumpers. 

Ross Karl: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen changes tune on Savea-Cane dual-flanker combo

That's no biggie. Mix in some good movement, plus short lineouts, and they will win their ball.

Also, there is no other standout alternative to Savea, Cane and Read. The taller, more traditional options at six are falling by the wayside.

The incumbent was Liam Squire, but he's ruled himself out of the Rugby Championship, because he feels he's not up to it. Shannon Frizell has been cast aside after the loss to the Boks.

Vaea Fifita hasn't reached his potential internationally, while dark horse Luke Jacobson's been undone by chronic concussion symptoms.

Of course, the old 'never say never' rule also means they shouldn't be ruled out of World Cup reckoning.

Lesson learnt.

But even if Squire returns, you'd need a compelling argument, when Savea, Cane and Read are so hard to ignore.

Ross Karl is Newshub's rugby editor.

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