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Hansen keeps NZ Maori options up sleeve

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/10/2016 Angelo Risso

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen © Getty Images All Blacks coach Steve Hansen New Zealand Maori will give the All Blacks the opportunity to shuffle their decks in next month's northern campaign.

The world champions will take in Chicago, Rome, Dublin and Paris on the whirlwind four-week tour, as they look to complete a perfect 2016 season.

New Zealand Maori, meanwhile, will take on USA in Chicago the day before the All Blacks play, and then clash with Munster and Harlequins in Europe.

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen told reporters on Sunday his 36-man squad was selected with one eye on their Maori counterparts, who are able to provide cover.

This is particularly the case in the front row, where only five props have been selected, and in the decision to choose eight loose forwards.

Chiefs tighthead Kane Hames, who debuted against Australia in August, will travel with New Zealand Maori and be called over to the All Blacks if required.

"With any selection, you've got to get it right," Hansen said.

"But when there's another team touring that allows you to shuffle the deck a little differently, we'll take that opportunity."

The decision to take eight loose forwards benefits Matt Todd in particular after the Crusaders gun impressed at openside against the Springboks and Wallabies.

Todd, 28, was omitted from his side's June series against Wales but has used incumbent Sam Cane's injury to push for a starting berth in the Rugby Championship.

The flanker caused multiple problems for the Wallabies in Saturday's third Bledisloe with his strength at the breakdown, and also made 16 tackles.

Hansen said the six-cap Todd, who received a standing ovation upon his substitution, had been unlucky to not have a larger squad role in the past.

"He's a quality player but not only that, he's a quality team man," Hansen said.

Skipper Kieran Read echoed his coach's remarks, saying his Crusaders club teammate worked his socks off and had the perfect frame for Test rugby.

Todd, for his part, told reporters on Saturday the 37-10 win over the Wallabies was one of the most difficult of his career.

Australia had successfully got behind the All Blacks' gain line and dominated ball possession, but the All Blacks' defence held strong.

"We were really stretched there but the boys, when they needed to, found a play or a turnover or forced a mistake," Todd said.

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