WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has hit back at critics of the timing of his training camps as the world champions reassembled for their second within a week in Christchurch on Sunday.
New Zealand have had at least two ‘foundation days’ around the country and organised two three-day training camps before next month’s three-match series with France, which starts on June 9.
All of the camps, however, conflicted with preparations for the players’ Super Rugby teams, with the Waikato Chiefs having several of their All Blacks leave South Africa early to attend last week’s camp in Auckland.
Some local rugby pundits have criticised the timing of the camps, while Wellington Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said at the start of the season they would cause unnecessary disruption.
The Hurricanes, who had eight players at the Auckland camp, only trained properly once this week before Friday’s top-of-the table clash with the Canterbury Crusaders.
Only four of the Crusaders at the All Blacks’ camp played in their 24-13 victory. Seven of the Hurricanes’ All Blacks played.
Hansen and New Zealand Rugby, however, have defended the camps several times this season and they did so again on Sunday.
“Is it ideal for everybody? No,” Hansen told reporters in Christchurch. “But it is what it is and we have had plenty of time to plan for it, and plenty of time to understand.
“Everyone has to make a sacrifice. We have to be flexible and adaptable to the world that we live in.
“We can get all Sulky Sally about it or we can get on with it, you know? It is just the way it is.”
The Chiefs were undoubtedly the most affected, with their trip to South Africa coinciding with the first camp, and they were beaten 28-24 by the Sharks.
Four All Blacks — Damian McKenzie, Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris and Anton Lienert-Brown — returned for the Chiefs’ 39-27 victory over the New South Wales Waratahs in Hamilton on Saturday.
Coach Colin Cooper, whose squad only returned to New Zealand on Tuesday, said the camp had actually been beneficial for his team when they returned to training on Wednesday.
“They rolled in and they were great, they picked everyone up,” said Cooper. “We were all a bit tired, we were getting over the jet lag, and they were really fresh.”
Hansen welcomed Cooper’s comments.
“We want the players to leave here invigorated and excited,” Hansen said. “You only have to see Coops’s comments – he was pretty positive about the whole thing.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)