Rugby World Cup 2019: Steve Hansen bullish on 'best back row' for Bledisloe Cup

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes he's struck the ideal balance with his rejigged loose forward trio for Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup opener in Perth.

Despite having insisted in recent weeks that he'd never pick both Sam Cane and Ardie Savea to start on each side of the scrum, Hansen has done exactly that - enabling captain Kieran Read to remain in his preferred number eight jersey.

"The back row's probably the best back row we can put on the park," Hansen said.

"Ardie has been in outstanding form all Super season. Sam Cane has come back and gives us a real physical presence on the park and is a natural seven.

"[Read] - he's coming back into his true form, so I think once people see what we're doing on Saturday they'll agree they are the three guys we should have picked."

Hansen agreed that the numbers on each player's back won't count for much once they take the park, hinting at a natural realignment of roles.

"You have the combination of two very good ball carriers and another one whos not bad. You've got two people who can get over the breakdown really, really well and another one who's not bad. When you combine the three together you come up with a pretty good package.

Rugby World Cup 2019: Steve Hansen bullish on 'best back row' for Bledisloe Cup

"I don't think there's too much risk. I think there's a massive amount of reward though. Having your three loose forwards on the park - there's one of your rewards."

Moving to the front row, the decision to start Dane Coles ahead of Codie Taylor is merely another opportunity to establish how to make best use of their two world class hookers, says Hansen.

"We think this is a good game for Colesy to start. It's a one-two punch and we're just trying to work out which way to play it."

As for the opposition, Hansen isn't buying into the lopsided rhetoric that the record books suggest, with the Bledisloe Cup having remained firmly on NZ soil for the past 17 years.

"They have a lot of talent and they don't necessarily get the credit for what they do and how they play. 

"If you look at the last 10 years, they're the one team who have been able to beat us or draw with us. Sometimes we've beaten them by quite a margin, but they're always tough games."


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