Dan Carter to start for All Blacks against Samoa, Richie McCaw may be benched

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen talks about his first squad of the year in Auckland.

Fresh, fit and hungry, Dan Carter is expected to be thrown the 10 jersey for the All Blacks’ opening test of the year against Samoa, but a different approach may be adopted with Richie McCaw.

Four first five-eighths were named in the All Blacks’ extended 41-man squad on Sunday, highlighting an embarrassment of riches and a conscious effort to build depth in the pivotal role.

But with 12 players to be trimmed for the July 8 test in Apia, only two first-fives may make the cut for the first of five tests before the World Cup.

All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter during the naming of the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship.

Had the Crusaders made the Super Rugby playoffs there may have been a temptation to rest Carter and McCaw from the Samoa test. However, the All Blacks stand to benefit from the red-and-black’s failure to reach the finals for the first time since 2001, though that could mean different things for the two All Black greats.

With Beauden Barrett and new cap Lima Sopoaga involved in Super Rugby semis this weekend, Carter and Colin Slade have the inside running to make the trip to Samoa.

Matt Todd’s inclusion over Ardie Savea is sure to cause debate and the selectors are leaning towards giving the Crusaders flanker a start in the first two tests of the year against Samoa and Argentina, with McCaw starting from the bench, and Kieran Read assuming the captaincy. Sam Cane has shouldered a heavy workload for the Chiefs and it would make sense to give him a spell at first.

Carter, however, could use a run. After being used at second-five, the more Carter featured in his favoured role the better his game looked this year. His control and tactical kicking improved with each match and it was no coincidence the Crusaders found form with him at first receiver in the final three weeks of their campaign.

“The first half of the season was about game time and once I started stringing some games together I could no longer be happy with that,” the 33-year-old said. “I wasn’t stamping my mark early, but I felt like I did that on occasions in the second half of the competition and getting some game time at 10 during the back end of the season was pleasing.”

As tempting as it might be to put Carter in cotton wool until the World Cup, the reality is he needs time at 10 to gain further confidence. Having had a the past week off, it is understood the All Blacks are keen to give him that starting chance against Samoa.

“It’s a historical game and one the All Blacks have never played before. To be part of that would be amazing,” he said.

“The fact we’ve had a couple of weeks to work on a bit of conditioning and a few niggles and also get up to speed with the way the coaches want us to play, to get first crack would be exciting. I’ll be doing what I can to get some game time.

“No matter who the opposition the first All Blacks game of the year is always one you want to be part of.”

The veteran playmaker is well aware of the strong heat coming from Barrett, Slade and Sopoaga but he seems more determined than ever to stamp his authority.

“The other three first- fives have played extremely well and been rewarded for their Super Rugby form. With such a big squad part of it is the Samoan test but it’s also about the World Cup. I’ve been involved in three and the team that goes over you’re always calling on guys through injury. It’s such a demanding tournament so if guys are needed to be called in it will work in our favour.

“Now that I’ve made this squad it’s a good chance to reset my goals.
source : stuff

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