Hansen facing long World Cup deliberation
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen says a number of players are in contention for his 2019 World Cup squad.
The All Blacks suffered a surprise 47-26 defeat to Australia in Perth last weekend and that loss raised questions about the world champions' credentials ahead of the showpiece event in Japan, which begins on September 20.
Nine players were released from New Zealand's squad ahead of Saturday's contest with the Aussies, including Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane and Owen Franks, and their replacements Sevu Reece, George Bridge and Nepo Laulala all impressed.
Hansen's side picked up a dominant 36-0 victory in Auckland, inflicting yet another defeat on the men in green and gold, and the head coach admits he has some big decisions to make when it comes to announcing his World Cup squad on August 28.
"Where we had question marks we no longer have questions marks, but in other ways it makes it tougher too," he said. "There's an old saying 'never give a sucker an even break because he'll take it.
"Now we've got some genuine competition and it will be good to see how it unfolds."
Hansen revealed that tighthead prop, the midfield and outside backs are the main areas of discussions, while he confirmed the shoulder injury that saw Richie Mo'unga leave the field was not serious.
The 60-year-old also confirmed injured lock Brodie Retallick remains in contention to make the squad while there is no update on whether Liam Squire would change his mind after the blindside flanker asked not to be considered for undisclosed reasons.
James Mason grew up in Northumberland so is entrenched in both the football and golf scenes. A low handicap golfer, he also follows Newcastle United and predicts big things under Rafa Benitez.