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All Blacks coach stirs the Bledisloe pot

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Update: 6:14PM ALL Blacks coach Steve Hansen has relished stirring the pot ahead of Saturday's Bledisloe Cup opener by claiming the Wallabies have picked Kurtley Beale to keep him out of the clutches of rugby league.

Hansen admitted on Thursday he was "dumbfounded" by counterpart Ewen McKenzie's shock selection of Beale at first five-eighth ahead of incumbent Bernard Foley for the ANZ Stadium blockbuster.

Chasing a record 18th straight Test win, the New Zealand mentor voiced his assumption that McKenzie was under instructions from the Australian Rugby Union to keep the off-contract star in the code.

Hansen's mind games also extended to questioning Beale's goalkicking ability, especially as his last attempt in the Test arena was the missed match-decider against the British and Irish Lions 14 months ago.

He also denied Beale's inclusion made Australia unpredictable.

"I was dumbfounded (by the selection) a wee bit," Hansen told reporters in Auckland.

"I thought 'why would he do that?' and I came to the conclusion that maybe Ewen doesn't trust (Foley) to do be able to do what he wants against us.

"Or if you really think about it, the other guy (Beale) is under contract and league are chasing him so you might start to think maybe the ARU has told him he's got to pick him.

"One guy has played there all year, the other guy has played seven Tests at most in his whole career at first five, so why would you change that?

"At the end of the day it doesn't matter why he has. Both of them are very good rugby players and Kurtley is certainly a guy who loves to do things differently."

Beale, who spoke out about playing off the bench in the 3-0 series sweep of France in June, has been in the sights of NRL club Canterbury Bulldogs but now looks set to re-sign with the ARU.

Hansen indicated Beale, starting his first Test at No.10 since November 2012, would be among a number of Wallabies the All Blacks would target.

"He will throw a lot of inside balls to runners so we're going to have to make sure we look after that part of the park," he said. "He'll be dangerous.

"He's not as good a goalkicker as Foley but I guess (McKenzie) will bring Foley on late in the game and if they need a goalkicker they've got the right one on at the right end of the game."

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