Steve Hansen expects more abrasive Lions

The All Blacks will prepare for a greater confrontation at the breakdown, as a desperate British and Irish Lions look to level their test series, in the second match in Wellington, coach Steve Hansen has said.

Hansen’s side surprised many by confronting the Lions up-front, running much of their attack close to the ruck, and using Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty as battering rams to secure a 30-15 victory at Eden Park, and take a 1-0 lead in the series.

That adaptation of ‘Warrenball’ — the tactic preferred by Lions coach, Warren Gatland, to get over the advantage line — ensured that the All Blacks punched holes in the Lions’s defence, forced them into 165 tackles, and gradually wore them down.

Hansen, however, said the visitors had appeared to ignore the breakdown and attacking channels close to the ruck to set up their wide defensive screen, and he expected they would not make the same decision next Saturday.

“I thought they were reasonably non-abrasive at the breakdown, by allowing us to get the ball we wanted,” Hansen told reporters on Sunday.

“They wanted people on their feet to set up a defensive line, rather than attacking us at the breakdown.

“Maybe they’ll look at that.”

Hansen, however, added that by committing more players in-close to stop the attacking plays off the scrumhalf, and to the breakdown, would open more space out-wide, which players like flyhalf, Beauden Barrett, would be able to exploit.

“It gives you more space to attack,” he added. “I think we caught them completely by surprise by playing off nine, as opposed to 10. They will look at that.”

Hansen is expected to make at least two changes to his starting side in Wellington, with fullback, Ben Smith, undergoing concussion protocols, while midfield back, Ryan Crotty, damaged his hamstring.

Hansen hinted he had seen enough of Barrett, at fullback, and Aaron Cruden, at flyhalf, in Saturday’s victory to consider playing the duo in the same positions next week.

Red herrings aside, the coach is more likely to shift Israel Dagg back to fullback, where he has played the majority of his 63 test caps.

How Julian Savea plays on Tuesday, for the Hurricanes, could also determine whether Hansen shifts Rieko Ioane, who scored two tries on Saturday, to the right and brings the bullocking Wellingtonian onto the left.

Waisake Naholo, however, could also just slot onto the right wing, with Dagg’s potential move to the number 15 jersey.


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