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Decisions to be made on ABs midfield mix

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 23/08/2016

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen during a practice match. © Simon Watts/Getty Images All Blacks coach Steve Hansen during a practice match. The All Blacks coaches have a "fairly good idea" of the make-up of their new-look midfield for Saturday's second Bledisloe Cup Test against the Wallabies, but they are keeping their cards close to their chest.

Injuries have robbed the world champions of Sonny Bill Williams, Charlie Ngatai, George Moala and now Ryan Crotty which has left Anton Lienert-Brown and the recently called-up trio of Damian McKenzie, Seta Tamanivalu and Rieko Ioane in the mix alongside incumbent Malakai Fekitoa for midfield spots in Wellington.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said the main focus had been on getting the players up to speed and selection was likely to come down to who had "learned the most, the quickest".

"You're looking for a real clear game understanding - how their role fits in with the team," Foster said.

"We want the game to be instinctive to them so they can just go out and play.

"It's how quickly they really feel comfortable with understanding the bigger picture of what we want so they can just go and do their role within that."

Senior players, and particularly those playing in the same position as the newcomers, all had a job to do to help make the transition as smooth as possible, Foster said.

Of the midfield players Lienert-Brown, who has been with the squad since the start of the Rugby Championship after replacing Williams, is probably the nearest like-for-like replacement to Crotty, while Tamanivalu has two Tests against Wales under his belt but could be seen as too similar in style to Fekitoa to have the pair play alongside each other at Westpac Stadium.

The All Blacks also have to decide between James Parsons, who played one Test against Scotland in 2014, and Liam Coltman as the back-up hooker to Dane Coles for Saturday night.

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