Bledisloe Cup: Steve Hansen shows faith in unwanted Ngani Laumape

Despite Ngani Laumape’s omission from the All Blacks' original Rugby Championship squad, coach Steve Hansen has obviously not lost faith in his rampaging midfielder.

That confidence has seen Laumape selected to start in the number 12 jersey in Saturday's return Bledisloe test at Eden Park.

Originally named only as an injury replacement in the squad, Laumape has been thrust back into the fold, with Ryan Crotty facing another lengthy spell on the sidelines.

"We haven’t lost any faith in Ngani, just because we didn’t include him in the original group," said Hansen.

"We feel like he's a quality player, so much so that we're happy to have him in the starting side."

It was widely expected that Anton Lienert-Brown's impressive 68-minute effort off the bench on Saturday would have been enough to have earn him the start in Auckland.

But Hansen says they'd rather retain the Chiefs midfielder as an impact substitute, favouring Laumape's ability as a specialist second five-eighths in the run-on XV.

"For the same reason we picked Ryan [Crotty] ahead of Lienert-Brown last week - we think he's doing a fantastic job for us off the bench

"He understands what his role is, and it doesn’t matter if it's 12 minutes into the game or at some later stage, he's fulfilling the role really well.

"Ngani, I think, will be a lot more comfy starting and he'll provide us with something that we're probably looking for in that midfield.

Bledisloe Cup: Steve Hansen shows faith in unwanted Ngani Laumape

"We want a specialist in that role to see how it works, as much for Saturday as for the future."

After naming the squad two weeks ago, Hansen cited Laumape's communication issues as the primary reason he wasn't included in the main group, despite an outstanding campaign for the Hurricanes.

"He's aware of it and he's been working on it. Ngani plays outside a position where there's a massive amount of pressure put on a 10 to make all the right decisions.

"We’re just asking him to talk about things that he may be hearing from other players and also what he's seeing himself.”

This week’s other contentious selection point surrounded the reshuffling of outside backs, after Rieko Ioane's hamstring tear.

The selectors have opted to shift Ben Smith to the wing and bring Jordie Barrett in at the back, overlooking the likes of Nehe Milner-Skudder and Damian McKenzie.

Hansen believes Milner-Skudder is still short on match fitness, after an injury-plagued Super Rugby campaign for the Hurricanes.

They'll give him both this weekend and next to show his wares for Manawatu in the Mire 10 Cup, before deciding whether he'll make the trip to Buenos Aires, says Hansen.

"If we do then pick him against Argentina, he'll be in good shape to come out and show us what he's made of. He hasn’t had that opportunity for some time."