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In Pics: New Zealand Press Conference

In Pics: New Zealand Press Conference

Click here for photos from the New Zealand coaching staff’s press conference at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland.

Pictured above: New Zealand backs coach Wayne Smith, head coach Graham Henry and forwards coach Steve Hansen answer questions from the media.

Henry admitted that the two-Test series against Ireland affords him the chance to put his players “on trial” before the start of the Tri Nations tournament.

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The former Wales and Lions coach said: “We’re trying to give everyone an opportunity and we didn’t want to make that statement to the players because we didn’t know how the first Test would go. But we’re really trying to get people out there.

“It’s a bit of an international trial before we select the 30 players for the Tri Nations.”

The All Blacks coaches at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland.

New Zealand fielded Marty Holah and captain Richie McCaw – two out-and-out opensides – at number 6 and 7 in last week’s Test match, but the experiment backfired with the majority of breakdown ball going Ireland’s way. Blindside specialist Jerome Kaino has taken Holah’s place in the team for the second Test on Saturday.

Forwards coach Steve Hansen said: “Bringing Jerome in – it’s not an admission that it didn’t work last week. It’s just we are looking to develop Jerome. We needed to find the answer out about the two opensiders and you don’t find the answer out unless you put them on the park.

“JK (Kaino) is a player we see as having a huge future in the jersey.”

Asked about the first Test performance of Ma’a Nonu – the colourful centre is benched for the second game in Auckland – All Blacks back coach Wayne Smith replied: “I don’t see it the way you people (media) do. Ma’a did the things that we wanted pretty well. He made som errors, like everyone.

“He’s a young man who cares a lot about it, who’s working hard and has got a lot of talent.”

Nonu was criticised for his failure to defend Ireland’s first try from Brian O’Driscoll when the Irish skipper slipped through a gap to score, nine minutes into the first Test.

Smith said: “It wasn’t Ma’a’s fault – the backline as a whole had not pushed up quickly enough. We probably got a wee bit wide on the outside, which didn’t help him. We probably weren’t narrow enough, condensed enough, to protect the man outside.”

Graham Henry is expecting an altogether better display from his side this weekend than in Hamilton. Some evident “rustiness” dogged the All Blacks’ play in the 34-23 victory over Ireland at the Waikato Stadium.

Henry said: “The extra week will hopefully give us an opportunity to improve. It’s probably more of an advantage to play this week than last week because we’ve had more time together. We just have to have a little bit of patience.”

**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**