Rugby: All Blacks selection spread among resident experts under new coach Scott Robertson

Incoming All Blacks coach Scott Robertson has introduced a novel approach to team selection, dividing responsibility among the resident experts on his coaching staff.

Under previous coach Ian Foster, the make-up of a team was dictated by a panel of three specialist selectors that included All Blacks legend Grant Fox as an independent eye.

Before taking up his role, Robertson indicated he would change that set-up, with assistant coaches making a greater contribution, but at his first camp, he has gone further, revealing they would essentially select their specialist positions, with oversight from the head coach.

Scott Robertson consults with All Blacks forward coach Jason Ryan.
Scott Robertson consults with All Blacks forward coach Jason Ryan. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The selection of each player will be done by the coach," he explained. "Leon [Macdonald] will do the back three, Jason Holland will do 12/13, Scott Hansen 9/10, I'll do the loose forwards and Jase Ryan the tight five."

In their prime, Macdonald played primarily at fullback for the All Blacks, Holland appeared in the Munster midfield more than 100 times, Hansen is a former Crusaders halfback, Robertson was an international openside or No.8, while Ryan was a representative prop.

"They'll select them, I'll oversee it, and 'koro' Wayne Smith will come in and have a word, if he needs to," said Robertson. "They will be watching them, selecting them and giving them feedback.

"I want them to select them and take ownership of that. We'll always get someone to cast a second set of eyes to make sure they're on track."

There's an old saying about a camel being a horse designed by committee - or maybe too many cooks spoiling the broth - so Robertson's overriding role is crucial to the success of that approach.

The former Crusaders guru has tipped his toe into the selection pool by gathering the 22 NZ-based incumbents from last year's Rugby World Cup squad - minus retirees, and players on offshore contracts or sabbaticals.

While Robertson will undoutedly put his own stamp on the line-up, the returning players are the startingpoint for an extended squad, which will grow during Super Rugby Pacific, before New Zealand host England in July.

"You'd hope there will be a bit of consistency," he said. "We want these players to play themselves into form - that's what All Blacks do and that's what I've asked of the players.

"I do have a good feel for who will be in that squad, but you're always open. The great thing about Super Rugby is it's open, it's expansive and someone always comes through.

"Look at [halfback] Cam Roigard as a prime example, how quickly he's come on. They're well coached at Super Rugby level and someone can come into the picture pretty quickly."

Robertson has lost the services of several longserving stalwarts of the team, notably locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, halfback Aaron Smith and hooker Dane Coles, but refuses to panic over the challenge of replacing them.

Roigard, who was a bolter for the World Cup squad, has already emerged as a likely successor to the No.9 jersey, leading his teammates home over the 'Bronco' shuttle run at the initial camp.

"Concerned or excited," Robertson quizzed media. "How do you frame that?

"It's pretty clear, around the locks, where we lose a couple of hundred-odd tests and a couple of icons... who's next? We're getting excited about some great young athletes coming through.

"Obviously, with Nuggy [Smith], you can't replace his experience, but you can replace him with someone that's skilled and gifted and passionate. We've got a few coming through."