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Crusaders will have to earn the title - Hansen

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Crusaders might be favourites in the eyes of fans across the franchise but the fact was they still had to go out and earn the prize.

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He recounted the hiding the All Blacks took at the 2007 World Cup in Cardiff when people didn't think France would win and they had 'smacked' the All Blacks.

"Whilst you would expect the Crusaders to go out as favourites, and rightly so because they have played some wonderful football, there's no guarantee they're going to win it. They're going to have to go out and earn it and it's a pretty good Lions side.

"I think their [the Lions] forward pack is very good and some exciting backs. It's not a given and hopefully the Crusaders get up and win it, it would be great to see them do it," he said.

Looking at the two teams it wasn't possible to say who was going to dominate the scrums and lineouts so it became a case of who turned up on the night and got things right to provide the right amount, and quality, of football to the backs and both backlines were quite exciting, he said.

From the All Blacks selection point of view it would be good to see how either of the five-eighths, Richie Mo'unga for the Crusaders, or Elton Jantjies for the Lions, handled the pressure applied to them.

With the All Blacks to be named at the weekend Hansen said it was looking like hooker Dane Coles would not be a playing proposition until late-September-early October. He would be named in the squad so the management had access to him but he would come through the Mitre 10 Cup system with Wellington.
He would get various amounts of minutes with Wellington until he was ready to join the All Blacks. While his initial injury was a knee that required surgery, there had been complications with that and subsequent to that he had a calf muscle injury.

Prop Nepo Laulala also wouldn't be available for the Rugby Championship as his broken arm hadn't healed properly and he had to have another operation with a bone graft and a best scenario would see him available for the end of year tour.

Second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams would not be considered for the first two Tests of the Championship. He was running well but his injury inhibited his ability to be involved in contact but Hansen said he was happy with where Williams was at.

The loose forward department didn't lack for players putting their hands up and the selectors would have to make some sound decisions over the next few days over who they were going to use. It was a shame, he said, that Jordan Taufua had suffered a broken arm in the Crusaders' semifinal with the Hurricanes.

The unit would be built around captain and No.8 Kieran Read, openside flanker Sam Cane and blindside Liam Squire. They were the logical players and they would like to grow their understanding of the other choices depending on how they selected them.

Read's return to rugby had been pleasing and he was getting more and more game time. The nerve damage he had suffered took time to come right and he would be looking to pick up his speed over the next month or so.

"When he does that it looks like he will be right back to his very, very best so we know that's a pretty good level of a rugby player so we're looking forward to getting him back and having his leadership," he said.