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Hansen already thinking ahead

Steve Hansen

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen admits he is already having to cast his mind towards the future, despite this year’s World Cup looming at the end of the year.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen admits he is already having to cast his mind towards the future, despite this year’s World Cup looming at the end of the year.

The All Blacks will be the next side to welcome the British & Irish Lions when they tour in 2017, and have not lost a series against the Sea of Red since 1971.

But with several key Kiwi veterans – such as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, scourges of the Lions in 2005 – expected to retire or move overseas at the conclusion of the World Cup, Hansen has named five new caps in his 41-man squad for their five warm-up Tests before the showpiece in England.

And the 56-year-old insists the rebuilding process must start now if they are to be ready for the Lions in 2017.

“The interesting thing about the 41 is that we could have we could have named 50 guys who were good enough,” he said.

“So a little bit of the 41 selection is about 2016 and beyond as well. It's not just about the end of the year.”

The inclusion of Otago Highlanders fly-half Lima Sopoaga is a nod to the future, with Carter and Colin Slade both heading offshore after the World Cup.

Hansen added: “Lima has come right on to his game this year and it's definitely an opportunity to let him come in and see what the group is about.

“He may even force his way into the 31 we take to the World Cup, but it was too good an opportunity to miss to not give him an education.”

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