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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 6 June, 2020

O'Gara-influenced Goodhue at the head of New Zealand's queue for centre slot

Steve Hansen says he has been reluctant to field this midfield partnership, because they are already familiar with one another.

INJURY TO SONNY Bill Williams leaves the All Blacks looking considerably lighter in midfield, but head coach Steve Hansen is quite content with his mix of youth and experience in his centre slots for Saturday’s clash with Ireland.

“We’re not going in with too many newbies and we have plenty of guys who have been around for a while,” says Hansen with a glance at a team-sheet containing seven 50-plus cap players, three of whom are centurion forwards.

Garry Ringrose kicks the ball ahead Prequel: Garry Ringrose grubbers beyond Otere Black and Jack Goodhue in 2015. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

23-year-old Jack Goodhue is very much at the other end of the scale with six caps to his name.

The centre, who will line up opposite Garry Ringrose just as he did during the 2015 U20 World Cup, has been a terrific addition to the All Black back-line this season and Hansen hailed his rise to the head of a competitive ‘queue’ featuring Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape and Vince Aso.

“We’re just lucky we’ve got so many good players,” said Hansen, “there’s a queue there. That will keep the competition going and it’s about what combinations work best for us and what’s best for the team.”

Somewhat oddly, Hansen says he has resisted returning to this week’s 12-13 axis of Goodhue and Ryan Crotty because the two Crusaders are already familiar with one another’s game.

“(Crotty) is a good communicator, he’s very direct in his running and he made good decisions. You like to have people who gel together well. Crots and Goodhue have had a long association together, so I was always a little bit reluctant to bring those two together. Because we know all about that pairing. With Sonny being injured, it was a no-brainer.”

With 30 Crusaders appearances, Goodhue isn’t exactly wet around the ears, of course. But separately, he also looked to Crotty’s experienced voice to guide him through what is sure to be a raucous night at the Aviva Stadium.

Jack Goodhue Goodhue addresses the media in Blanchardstown today. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“Feels like me and Ryan go way back now,” Goodhue half jokes.

“He’s a good mate of mine. I’m looking forward to playing with him, he’s got good communication skills, he complements my game with his work-rate, he creates space for me… I’ll let him play his game, I’ll play mine, and we’ll make it work.”

The big plus of pairing club-mates in such a difficult defensive channel s that it reduces the likelihood of costly hesitations and mis-steps when reading and adapting to angles of running.

Both of the All Black starting centres for this week began working under the tutelage of Ronan O’Gara in Christchurch this year, the addition of a Cork accent to the coaching staff has brought a new level of aggression to Goodhue’s defensive efforts.

Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue celebrate after the game Cortty and Goodhue celebrate a win over England. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’s brought some enthusiasm,” says the Whangarei man, “he’s a great guy and I enjoy working with him.

“He’s brought some northern hemisphere defence and getting up in opposition faces – you need to learn from any coach, especially someone like Ronan, he’s got a lot of experience, he’s taught me a lot.

“Probably more aggression on defence, he’s got some ideas in terms of attacking the line a bit more at set-piece. I know for a fact Ryan and me have enjoyed his coaching this year.”

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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Sean Farrell

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