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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

All Black coach Steve Hansen has been girding his team for a rolling maul onslaught from South Africa in Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby clash between the old rivals at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Although the Kiwis scored a good driving maul try of their own against Los Pumas in Christchurch last week, the Pumas momentarily got themselves back into the game with 2 of their own in the 2nd half. The look on All Black skipper Richie McCaw’s face told a story after the South Americans easily got over for their 2nd try. In short, he wasn’t happy.

But while that opened up a perception of possible All Black vulnerability to the driving maul, and let’s face it the New Zealanders are so good that opposing teams do need to make the most of even the slightest chink, Hansen made it clear to a press conference in the build-up to the game that he thought it was the laws that were vulnerable, not his team.

“We’re not too bad at the rolling maul ourselves these days,” he quipped. “There were 3 tries scored through driving mauls last week, but is that the game we want?”

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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

The New Zealand All Blacks team to face the Springboks in The Rugby Championship on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park contains 2 Test debutants amongst other changes.

Lock James Broadhurst and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga will line up to make their Test debuts for the All Blacks. Sopoaga comes in for Daniel Carter at flyhalf and Broadhurst takes over from Luke Romano.

In other changes in the starting 15, Dane Coles comes in at hooker, with Liam Messam at blindside flank. In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the starting scrumhalf position, while the world-record midfield combo of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith is back.

As well, with a desire to continue to give Israel Dagg more game time, Ben Smith is named on the right wing.

On the bench, Ben Franks comes in as reserve prop alongside Wyatt Crockett, Codie Taylor retains the reserve hooker jersey, Sam Whitelock is reserve lock, with Victor Vito covering the loose forwards. TJ Perenara is reserve scrumhalf, with Beauden Barrett and Malakai Fekitoa the other backs on the pine.

Broadhurst and Sopoaga will be surrounded by a hugely experienced All Blacks side, with the starting forward pack boasting a total of exactly 500 Test caps, with a further 320 caps in the starting backline and 217 on the bench.

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Malakai Fekitoa

Malakai Fekitoa

Conrad Smith

Conrad Smith

New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have some big selection decisions to make this week, as his team prepares to take on South Africa’s Springboks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Having rested the bulk of the All Blacks who featured in the all-New Zealand Super Rugby Final (between the Hurricanes and Highlanders) in the 1st 2 Tests of the year, he has to decide how many of them will now be unleashed on the Springboks.

Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Victor Vito and James Broadhurst are all keen to get a run against Springboks in their Rugby Championship outing on Saturday.

Probably the most interesting selection would be what combination he chooses to oppose South Africa’s exciting new midfield pairing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende.

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New ZealandGeorge Moala is set to make his All Black debut when New Zealand meet Samoa in a historic 1-off Test in Apia on Wednesday.

Moala is the only uncapped player in the starting 15.

3 More uncapped players have been named on the replacement bench – with prop Nepo Laulala, scrumhalf Brad Weber and midfielder Charlie Ngatai all in line for their 1st test appearances.

The starting 15 features a wealth of experience in the forward pack, with 648 Test caps up front – courtesy of a front row of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks, locks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano and the familiar loose forward trio of Jerome Kaino, captain Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.

There are a further 224 Test caps in the starting backline, with scrumhalf Andy Ellis returning to the All Blacks for the 1st time since 2011, Daniel Carter is at flyhalf, with Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty in the midfield.

Moala is on the right wing, Charles Piutau is on the left and Israel Dagg is at fullback.

On the bench, hooker Hika Elliot continues his remarkable comeback after last playing for the All Blacks in 2012 and undergoing neck surgery in 2013.

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New ZealandNew Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen brought in some reinforcements as his team gears up for a brutal Test against Samoa in Apia next week Wednesday.

With a number of key All Blacks involved in the Super Rugby Final between the Hurricanes and Highlanders, Hansen wanted to add some depth to the squad training in Auckland this week.

17 Members of Hansen’s 41-player squad were ruled out because of their involvement in Saturday’s Super Rugby decider.

3 More players – uncapped Chiefs midfield backs Charlie Ngatai and Seta Tamanivalu, as well as Crusaders utility Tom Taylor – have been brought into the New Zealand camp in Auckland.

With injury issues surrounding some others, Hansen initially announced 2 stand-by players – scrumhalf Andy Ellis and uncapped prop Nepo Laulala.

He had already boosted numbers last week when 3 uncapped players joined a training camp in Auckland – midfield back George Moala, scrumhalf Brad Weber and prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi.

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All BlacksThe All Blacks selectors gave their 1st hint of World Cup thinking, naming 5 new faces in an enlarged 41-man squad.

Coach Steve Hansen has named 33 new All Blacks since they won the last World Cup in 2011 with the latest additions being Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor, Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst and fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder, Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga and wing Waisake Naholo.

Naholo is the leading try-scorer in Super Rugby this year, touching down twice in the Highlanders 24 / 14 play-off victory over the Chiefs on Saturday to take his total for the year to 11.

Milner-Skudder is a cousin of Buff Milner and a nephew of George Skudder, both former All Blacks.

There is also a recall for 3-Test hooker Hika Elliot who has not been required for international duty since June 2012.

A final group of 31 to defend their world crown will be named at the end of August following The Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa, Australia and Argentina as well as a 1-off Test with Samoa and an extra clash with Australia.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

The decision of All Blacks flyhalf Colin Slade to head to Europe after the World Cup has made coach Steven Hansen very aware that the exodus of New Zealand players is not yet over.

Slade is the 10th All Black so far to announce he is heading offshore at the end of the year, to join French club Pau.

Still to confirm their post-World Cup futures are Julian Savea, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty and, coupled with expected retirements and the impact of the Olympics, coach Steve Hansen is bracing for a difficult 12 months following the World Cup in England.

Cashed-up European clubs, who once targeted players in the twilight of their careers, assisting the All Blacks into an easy rollover of talent, are now creating a talent drain by luring up-and-coming stars.

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Brodie retallick receives New Zealand Player Of The Year 2014

Brodie retallick receives New Zealand Player Of The Year 2014

All Black Brodie Retallick has backed up his World Rugby International Player of the Year award by being named the Kelvin R Tremain Player of the Year at the 2014 Steinlager Rugby Awards.

The 23-year-old’s outstanding form saw the 35-Test powerhouse lock join team mates Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino who have won the top honour in recent years.

The All Blacks who retained their number one world ranking for the fifth consecutive year, took out the Team of the Year for the fourth successive year while Steve Hansen earned his third successive Coach of the Year award.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

Convincing Steve Hansen to extend his contract after the 2015 World Cup would ensure the All Blacks aren’t exposed by the exit of their experienced players, says Mike Eagle.

Eagle, who was New Zealand Rugby’s chairman between 2010 and early 2014, understands supporters may be nervous about the All Blacks coach being reappointed ahead of next year’s global tournament – something that has never happened before – but believed it should be endorsed.

Last month NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said discussions with Hansen, who replaced Graham Henry as head coach in 2012, were well underway and it was up to Hansen to decide if he wanted to sign a new deal.

While he hadn’t been privy to the discussions between Tew and the board, Eagle said it would foolish to wait until after the World Cup to start searching for a new coach if Hansen was prepared to stay.

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Duane Vermeulen and Brodie Retallick - Brodie beat Duane and the other nominees as Player Of The Year 2014, after a monsterous season by the big brute of a lock.

Duane Vermeulen and Brodie Retallick – Brodie beat Duane and the other nominees as Player Of The Year 2014, after a monsterous season by the big brute of a lock.

Brodie Retallick becomes the fourth New Zealander to be named World Rugby Player of the Year, while the All Blacks and Steve Hansen also win awards.

New Zealand second row Brodie Retallick has been named the World Rugby Player of the Year 2014 by an independent panel, the fourth player from his country to win the prestigious award.The 23-year-old has enjoyed a fantastic year in the middle of the All Blacks’ pack and follows in the footsteps of teammates Kieran Read (2013), Dan Carter (2005 and 2012) and Richie McCaw (2006, 2009 and 2010).

He edged out Willie le Roux (South Africa), Julian Savea (New Zealand), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland) and Duane Vermeulen (South Africa) for the award in a closely fought contest during a year of spectacular performances on the international stage.

The accolade completes a hat-trick of awards for New Zealand, as the All Blacks were named World Rugby Team of the Year 2014 for the eighth time and Steve Hansen the World Rugby Coach of the Year 2014 for the third year in succession.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has clearly marked his team’s challenge, after again dominating world rugby in 2014 – winning an unprecedented back-to-back World Cup in 2015.

After crashing out in a shock defeat by France in the 2007 quarterfinals, the All Blacks stormed to World Cup glory on home soil in 2011.

Since then, they have been in awesome form, losing only one match this season, to the Springboks by two points, after having already wrapped up a third successive Rugby Championship.

And Hansen, speaking after his team produced a second half five-try fest to see off Wales 34-16 on Saturday, was in no doubt about what lay ahead for him and his charges.

“No one’s won back-to-back World Cups so we shouldn’t even be the favourites, but we will be because we’re the number one side in the world,” said Hansen.

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Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had no regrets about risking defeat against Scotland by fielding an experimental young side at Murrayfield, insisting that the close call of a contest that ended in a 24-16 victory for the reigning world champions was “a perfect game”.

New Zealand have never lost to Scotland but the hosts were scenting an historic victory as they entered the final 10 minutes just 17-16 down against an All Black side featuring 13 changes in personnel from the team that started the 24-21 win against England at Twickenham seven days previously.

It took a 74th minute try from Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush and a conversion by Colin Slade, who started on the right wing but switched to the familiar realm of flyhalf after the 56th minute substitution of Dan Carter, to make victory secure against a spirited Scotland side.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

It has been successfully trialled in South Africa and now All Black coach Steve Hansen wants the Varsity Cup initiative to be used worldwide.

Hansen, at the weekend, renewed his call for a challenge system to be bought into the game and it comes on the back of some contentious officiating in their 24-21 win over England.

Steve Hansen said one example of where a challenge could be used, was when his own team got away with a blatant infringement earlier in the year.

“Israel Dagg throwing a forward pass against South Africa and Richie McCaw scoring,” the New Zealand mentor told a media scrum after his team’s win at Twickenham.

Hansen also nominated the apparent forward pass which led to France’s try, when they beat the All Blacks in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal as a an example of what could be achieved.

“Everybody in the stadium who had a view saw that.

“To me, that’s a clear and obvious case for a coach to say: ‘OK, I want to challenge that try.’

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen blasted the use of television replays after his world champions beat England 24-21, claiming TV producers were threatening to have a damagingly decisive say at Test level.

The All Blacks were rocked when they fell behind in just the fourth minute at Twickenham on Saturday to England wing Jonny May’s first international try.

But with flyhalf Aaron Cruden crossing they were just 14-11 behind at half-time.

They then stepped up the pace in the second half with skipper Richie McCaw scoring a try before replacement forward Charlie Faumuina went over nine minutes from time.

England’s late penalty try could not disguise a fifth straight defeat by the All Blacks.

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New ZealandThe World Champions head to America and the United Kingdom in what is the ultimate live fire training run, for in less than 12 months the All Blacks will re-tread the same soil as they seek to defend the Webb Ellis Cup.

The paradox for New Zealand is that their first Test, against USA in Chicago next up, is followed by World Cup host’s England a week later.

This mirrors the fears that the All Blacks ‘soft pool’ in the 2015 tournament, an immense insult to Argentina, may be ill preparation for the knockout stages, something that caused some issues for the side in 2007.

The Rugby Championship winners play the United States, England, Scotland and Wales to round out their 2014 international schedule.

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Aaron Cruden

Aaron Cruden takes part in a team huddle with his Manawatu team-mates, something he won’t do with the All Blacks in Brisbane.

Aaron Cruden continues to be frozen out of the All Blacks.

Steve Hansen, who recently kicked the playmaker off the tour of Argentina and South Africa because he missed a pre-departure meeting, hasn’t even bothered naming him in the reserves for the test against the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday night.

Instead Beauden Barrett will again start at first five-eighth, while Colin Slade, who can play first-five, wing and fullback, has been listed in the substitutes.

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Julian Savea and Jonah Lomu

Julian Savea and Jonah Lomu

In most cases, comparing a young player with a legend of the game is to burden him with unfair expectation.

To say Julian Savea is the new Jonah Lomu is definitely unfair. Unfair because it is selling Savea short. The 24-year-old wing may already have surpassed Lomu, according to All Black coach Steve Hansen.

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Israel Dagg

FULL GALLOP: All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg finds clear air during their 34-13 win over Argentina to clinch the Rugby Championship for 2014.

Launching pads don’t get much better. With the pressure now off, the All Blacks board a flight to Johannesburg today with strut, swagger and no inhibitions.

Yesterday’s four-try 34-13 win over the Pumas clinched a third successive Rugby Championship title but, more importantly, saw the All Blacks regain their attacking groove.

After two weeks battling New Zealand rain they threw off the shackles in La Plata and now have the freedom to craft a gameplan without worrying about any tournament permutations.

To further enhance their 22-test unbeaten run they will be intent on harnessing that flamboyance for a blockbuster clash of styles rematch with the Springboks.

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SpringboksSPRINGBOKS

Meyer Praises fit, gutsy Boks

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Saturday applauded the fitness and never-say-die attitude of his team in defeating Australia 28-10 in the Rugby Championship at DHL Newlands.

The Springboks scored three tries in the last ten minutes to seal a bonus point victory.

“We played great rugby at times in the first half, but their defence was great. We became a bit frustrated because of that, but in the second half the fitness levels and impact from the bench was massive for us; I told our conditioning coach Basil Carzis as much afterwards,” Meyer said.

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New ZealandMajor adjustments are not a familiar theme with the All Blacks but that’s exactly what the backline confronts in Argentina this week.

Under Steve Hansen, a consistent selection policy has prevailed. Players must earn their respective chances, or wait for injury to open the door.

This week Aaron Cruden’s ill-advised bender and a lack of depth at second five-eighth will force two serious changes to the inside backs.

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Aaron Cruden

Aaron Cruden photographed with two bar staff at The Zookeeper’s Son on Saturday night.

First-five Aaron Cruden will miss matches against Argentina and South Africa after a late night drinking incident.

Aaron Cruden was found keeping his head down at his Hamilton home today – over 10,000 kilometres away from his All Blacks team-mates – after he was kicked off the trip to Argentina for having a late night drinking session in Auckland.

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Steve Hansen

TOTAL FOCUS: Steve Hansen knows a thing of two about leadership.

The All Blacks may have been grounded in Auckland overnight after their flight to Santiago was cancelled, but their ambitions remain sky-high as they look to keep alive an unbeaten run dating back to November, 2012.

Former coach Sir Graham Henry created a few ripples when he suggested the world champions could do with some adversity ahead of their defence of the global crown next year in England.

Henry spoke of the benefits that come from regathering the forces following a defeat and wondered aloud if the All Blacks, who have lost only one test under Steve Hansen, might be the better for the introspection that follows a loss.

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Steve HansenAll Blacks coach Steve Hansen can see where his predecessor, Sir Graham Henry, is coming from.

But Hansen wants his team to continue improving without the need of a loss as a wake-up call.

Henry, with Hansen as an assistant, steered New Zealand to the World Cup title in 2011.

However, 12 months out from the start of their defence, Henry is worried they might get too used to winning and believes some adversity, namely a loss, might have benefits.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen doesn’t mind having a public pop at the Wallabies, but when it comes to one of world rugby’s enduring rivalries, and South African coach Heyneke Meyer, there is nothing but mutual respect.

“I myself have a huge amount of respect for their coach [Heyneke Meyer]. I think he’s a good man and a good coach,” Hansen said today, ahead of Saturday night’s test against South Africa in Wellington.

“Their captain Jean [de Villiers], having his 100th game [on Saturday] I’d like to congratulate him on that.”

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Gavin Rich

Gavin Rich

Heyneke Meyer, as every Springbok coach has before him, will have his year’s work measured by how his side goes against the All Blacks.

That is just the way it is in South Africa and Meyer would have known that before he accepted the job. But if anyone thinks it’s a fair contest, and that he is pitting himself against his All Black adversary Steve Hansen on equal terms, they need to think again.

The expectations of South Africans do not match the rugby realities of the two countries. New Zealand’s centralised system, with Super Rugby coaches and players contracted to the NZRFU and everything geared towards making the All Blacks excellent, gives Hansen a leg up that Meyer doesn’t have.

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Steve Hansen & Sonny Bill Williams

‘ONE OF THE BEST': All Blacks coach Steve Hansen shares a moment in 2012 with favoured player Sonny Bill Williams.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made it clear that Sonny Bill Williams will be on the end of year tour, though there are no guarantees he will play any games.

Hansen has voiced his views on the controversial decision to get Williams instantly into the All Blacks selection mix on his return from rugby league, even though he may not have played for his Counties Manukau union. His selection would be against ordinary New Zealand Rugby regulations.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw, does he still have plenty to offer?

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen disagrees Richie McCaw is a fading force but insists neither he, nor his captain, will be afraid to make the right call to end his illustrious career.

On either side of the Tasman, there are growing concerns an ageing McCaw won’t make it to next year’s World Cup.

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Steve Hansen

SOBERING NIGHT IN SYDNEY: Is All Black coach Steve Hansen running out of ideas for his All Blacks?

Love the rain. Give me a stick of dynamite and I would blow the roof off the Millennium Stadium. Wet weather rugby is a whole new ball game. It demands a higher skill level, a flexible tactical mind and it gives the fate of the contest to the forwards.

Suddenly these All Blacks didn’t look half the team that some people had assumed they were.

Don’t tell me the conditions were impossible or that they ruined the spectacle. And don’t tell it to the 39,523 people, it is still hard to believe the size of the crowd, who were jammed into Wellington’s Athletic Park back in 1996.

The conditions that day were far worse than they were in Sydney last weekend, because a howling wind drove the rain, but those All Blacks played the rugby of the gods.

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New ZealandKiwi straight-shooter Steve Hansen says the All Blacks can lift 10 or 12 notches from their Bledisloe-opening draw but doubts whether the Wallabies can rise any further.

Hansen has reacted to the 12-12 Sydney stalemate like a loss and admitted widespread criticism of his team’s poor display was wholly warranted.

He said New Zealand needed to improve “just about everything” to continue their amazing 32-Test Eden Park streak on Saturday night.

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Steve Hansen

All Black coach Steve Hansen.

It was no consolation at all to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen that a post-game meeting with last week’s referee Jaco Peyper yielded a frank “mea culpa” from the South African whistle-blower.

Hansen factored a poor refereeing performance into the contributing reasons for a sub-par All Black performance in last week’s 12-12 draw with the Wallabies in Sydney to open the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series.

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New ZealandThe All Blacks were left feeling “hollow” and “gutted” after their record-equalling test win streak came to a limp end on Saturday night at the Olympic stadium.

To that they might have added relieved at escaping with a draw they scarcely deserved.

Truth be told, the All Blacks were fortunate indeed to slip out of Sydney with a 12-12 stalemate that was flattering to them, after being outplayed in the second half by a Wallabies outfit who just weren’t good enough to close out a victory that was theirs for the taking.

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All Blacks coach finds positives in likely season-ending shoulder injury of prop Tony Woodcock.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen appears resigned to losing test veteran Tony Woodcock for the rest of 2014 – though he believes there is a significant upside to the loosehead prop’s likely season-ending injury.

Hansen wrapped up the second day of a mini-camp with his non-Crusaders All Blacks in Auckland today, and said the prognosis was looking increasingly dim for Woodcock who was battling a serious shoulder problem.

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New ZealandThe All Blacks will get another crack at matching the record for consecutive Tier One Test victories when they face England in Hamilton this weekend.

The record of 17 victories has been reached by the All Blacks side of the late 1960’s and Nick Mallett’s Springbok team of the lates 1990’s, and Richie McCaw will have his third shot as captain at joining them on Saturday.

The Wallabies have twice ended an All Blacks winning streak on 16 victories in recent years, springing a surprise in Hong Kong back in 2010 and then earning a draw in Brisbane in 2012.

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Aaron Cruden

Aaron Cruden

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen praised the bravery and class of flyhalf Aaron Cruden for producing the match-winning moment in a tight Test.

Cruden was hailed as the hero of the All Blacks’ last gasp 20-15 win over England at the weekend, not for the five penalties he kicked but for the one he turned down.

Cruden not only caught England napping but also his own teammates when he opted to tap and run when the All Blacks won a handy penalty with the score locked at 15-all.

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