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Owen Franks has played 108 tests, won two World Cups and been a scrummaging cornerstone for the All Blacks for a decade. But the 31-year-old tighthead prop faces an anxious wait to find out whether he can be squeezed into Steve Hansen’s 31 for their shot at history in Japan.
Hansen will name his World Cup squad on August 28, with tighthead prop, the final loose forward spot and, to a lesser degree, midfield shaping as the big selection decisions for the All Blacks selectors.
The coach admitted before his All Blacks disassembled in Auckland on Sunday that a standout final Bledisloe performance at Eden Park on Saturday night had solidified the thinking in some areas and perhaps made it tougher in one or two others.
“In some ways it makes it easier because some people really put their hands up. Where we had question marks, you no longer have question marks. But in other ways it makes it a bit tougher too,” Hansen said.
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Asked the toughest positions to call, Hansen replied: “Tighthead [prop] has been a big competition, midfield has been a big competition, and do we take an extra 6 or extra lock? They’re probably the toughest ones.”
Let’s look first at what Saturday night’s outstanding 36-0 shutout of the Wallabies told Hansen in terms of his World Cup selection.
All three surprise starting selections stood up magnificently and assuredly booked their tickets for Japan. Hansen rolled the dice a little for this pivotal test by picking Nepo Laulala at tighthead prop and George Bridge and Sevu Reece on the wings, and th
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