WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has concerns about his squad’s discipline ahead of the June tests against France, saying suspended props Joe Moody and Owen Franks needed to give themselves a “wee uppercut” while on the sidelines.
Moody was banned for two matches for elbowing Kurtley Beale in the head in a Super Rugby tie against the New South Wales Waratahs, while his Crusaders team mate Franks was handed a similar sanction for striking against the Auckland Blues.
Both Canterbury props were named in Hansen’s squad on Sunday and will be available for the first test against France at Eden Park on June 9.
“I’ve got concerns about our whole discipline,” Hansen told local media. “Last year, we gave away too many avoidable penalties. We’ve talked about that on our foundation days.
“Both guys we’re talking about have been out (injured) for a wee while and were probably a little rusty in their techniques.
“They just need to have a look at themselves and give themselves a wee uppercut and get on with it.”
Sam Whitelock will captain the All Blacks in the absence of the injured Kieran Read when the world champions host France in the three-match series in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.
There are three new faces in the squad in loose forwards Jordan Taufua and Shannon Frizell, while Waikato Chiefs scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi slots in as back-up to Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara.
However, there was no room for uncapped Wellington Hurricanes winger Ben Lam, Super Rugby’s leading try-scorer, with Hansen opting instead for Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo and Nehe Milner-Skudder.
“Ben Lam has had an outstanding season,” Hansen said. “But people around the country tell us, ‘Oh, you are going to have to pick so and so’ and I go ‘who do you want us to leave out?’
“And there is always a deathly silence because I don’t want to leave anyone out. But unfortunately that is our job and we have to make some decisions and we have done that.
“We have gone with Waiseke and Rieko, who is not a bad player. There are a couple of blokes there who are our big wingers and Ben Smith can play on the wing pretty handily as well.
“So we looked and asked do we need another big guy or do we want someone who can change it up a bit and give us something different and Nehe does that.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by John O’Brien)