First full week for All Blacks Rugby Championship squad

All Blacks Rugby Championship squad
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - SEPTEMBER 29: Players of New Zealand celebrate with the trophy at the end of a match between Argentina and New Zealand as part of The Rugby Championship 2018 at Jose Amalfitani Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Liniers, Argentina. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

After the group announcement was made on Tuesday last week, this will be the first full week of training for the All Blacks Rugby Championship squad. Days after the 2019 Super Rugby final has been decided, the countries rugby-mindset has now turned 100% onto the team’s goals ahead.

Steve Hansen was the spokesperson last week, when he named several new players to join the established All Blacks. This week, he becomes the messenger and motivator for a 39 player group that will begin the All Blacks Rugby Championship challenge on July 20 in Argentina (Round One).

39 are available to train this week, although a smaller party will make the trip across the Pacific – less the Crusaders and others who will be rested in Round One of The Rugby Championship.

Over the next two weeks, Hansen, assistant coach Ian Foster and the management group will embed the new team focus points, strategies and key drills that they wish to improve on from 2018. That was a year where the side had to make more adjustments then in recent memory; some successful adaptations, but on the whole not entirely successful. Two losses, with a narrow escape over England.

However, this team still go into the International season as the ‘top dogs’.

The team to beat, current Rugby Championship title holders, and with a fresh new RWC shirt and training squad.

With three straight seasons as the premier Southern Hemisphere union, it all ramps up even more in 2019, with their SANZAAR partners more focused on this year – World Cup year. The time to peak and while the sentiment is that the TRC (Rugby Championship) is the opening act of a season that peaks in September and October, if you ‘drop the ball’ now (as a player and as a Team) it will be more difficult in Japan.

First full week for All Blacks Rugby Championship squad

Once the squad was announced, beside a fitness session and player photos, kit being issued and sponsor engagements, the players dispersed. Some were fortunate enough to have matches to play. A handful turned out for club rugby, while those who were involved in the Super Rugby grand final enjoyed a Super Saturday to remember.

By Tuesday, with Crusaders celebrations and any lingering bumps from club rugby games subsided, the All Blacks Rugby Championship squad fully re-assembled in Auckland. Fresh additions in Luke Jacobson, TJ Ioane (see below), Sevu Reece, and Braydon Ennor eager to impress.

These young men were taken back by the call-up, yet for one name, his recall back to the All Blacks group was redemption, and payback for his commitment to NZ Rugby. Reward for endurance, loyalty and his demonstration of the perseverance and determination needed to hear your name called out (after a three-year absence).

Brad Weber is one name who showed how form must be rewarded. His contribution to the Chiefs rise from a losing start to Super Rugby, was more about the man than a position. He usurped incumbent Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, and returns for a fresh start to his All Blacks career.

And in this first week of the All Blacks Rugby Championship squad training, it will be all about producing the evidence to back up what form and performance demonstrated.

Opening match of Rugby Championship a ‘fresh start’

After four days of initial training, the new squad will head to Buenos Aires. That is, less the Crusaders and other players who may be injured or in recovery mode. A safe move, although one with a degree of risk. Even with the best intentions, some will see this as an opportunity for Los Pumas to secure a first win over the All Blacks.

Los Pumas
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – SEPTEMBER 29: Players of Argentina sing their national anthem before a match between Argentina and New Zealand as part of The Rugby Championship 2018 at Jose Amalfitani Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Liniers, Argentina. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

No guarantee of course, with all the talent and world-class players at the disposal of Steve Hansen. A strong group, not including Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett. Not including the Super Rugby Championship winning Crusaders, and selected players recovering from injury [Sonny Bill Williams] but one that would challenge most International sides.

“It’s really exciting bringing the team together and we’re all looking forward to starting the work towards this year’s goals. We’re going to try and do something that’s never been done before and that’s to win three Rugby World Cups in a row,” Steve Hansen said in the NZ Rugby media release.

“However, that’s not a given. We’re going to have to be hungry for success and we’re going to have to work incredibly hard and smart to achieve this,” he said.

Considering the limitations on player selections for the opening round of TRC, the coaches may be forced to introduce the likes of All Black debutant TJ Ioane earlier than anticipated. Weber too, as some players like TJ Perenara could use the time on the sidelines to refresh and be fully prepared for South Africa, one week later.

So expect new names and a ‘fresh start’ to The Rugby Championship campaign for the All Blacks. Practice will make for perfect; come to the Rugby World Cup, yet with the experience of Sam Cane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ben Smith and Brodie Retallick still available, the 2019 Rugby Championship squad is still a formidable team to stop.

 

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