Rugby World Cup 2019: Steve Hansen defends dropping experienced trio for Wallabies test

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says his shock decision to drop Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane and Owen Franks for Saturday's test against the Wallabies was not dictated by bad form. 

Wingers Smith and Ioane, along with prop Franks, were omitted from the matchday squad in favour of Sevu Reece, George Bridge and Nepo Laulala respectively. 

Hansen's bold call replaces 213 caps of test experience with a more youthful 22 for the must-win Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Auckland. 

Last week, the All Blacks slumped to a record 47-26 loss to the Wallabies in Perth and they must win the rematch to retain the Bledisloe Cup, which they've held since 2003. 

A draw or loss would see the Wallabies grab the silverware. 

"We'd like to see Ben, Owen and Rieko play better, but we have to find out more about these other guys in the pressure cooker situations," said Hansen. "You don't get much bigger than this. 

"It's not a big call… we have to find out more about these people and to win the World Cup, we have to roll the dice.

"We wouldn't be doing it, if the guys we're putting in weren't good enough to do the job. I don't think it's a risk and there are lots of rewards with it." 

Hansen described the match as "ideal" for the young trio to impress in the All Blacks' final test before the 31-man World Cup squad is named on August 28. 

"We need to see if these three players can step up to the plate under big pressure. 

 Rugby World Cup 2019: Steve Hansen defends dropping experienced trio for Wallabies test

"What would happen if we get to the World Cup and [Smith] blows a tyre? Or Rieko does his hamstring and we have to put in a young guy who has never faced pressure like this.

"This game is ideal. This is the best game we could have asked for before the World Cup.

"You have to grow depth and experience. We want the guys with little experience to get some." 

Steve Hansen faces his 100th test as All Blacks head coach, although he admits the century hasn't been on his mind. 

"I haven't even thought about it - they're all special. 

"It's a privilege and honour to be head coach of the All Blacks. Even if it's one test, that's better than the bloke who got none. 

"I'm not big on milestones. It is an exciting one, because there is a lot riding on it, but that's why they're called test matches." 


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