Steve Hansen says Bledisloe changes about testing rookies under pressure ahead of World Cup

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Hansen has wielded the axe after the shocker in Perth, dumping Ben Smith, Owen Franks and Rieko Ioane. Source: 1 NEWS

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said while he wants the veteran trio he dropped for Saturday's Bledisloe Test to be "playing better", the moves were more about testing their replacements in a pressured environment.

Hansen announced his 23-man squad that will defend the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park this weekend with Ben Smith, Owen Franks and Rieko Ioane all dumped after last week's big loss in Perth.

The axing has seen George Bridge, Sevu Reece and Nepo Laulala all thrust into starting roles in front of a sold out Auckland crowd - which is all part of Hansen's master plan.

"Obviously we'd like to see Ben, Owen and Rieko playing better but we've made decisions because we've got to find out more about people in these other people in these big pressure cooker situations and you don't get much bigger than this one."

Hansen said the calls weren't "that big" because it all came back to the team's goal of defending the World Cup later this year.

"That's the number one priority," he said.

"But we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think that the guys we're putting in are good enough to do the job on Saturday if we play well.

"I don't think it's a risk and there's lots of rewards in it."

Hansen proposed some hypothetical scenarios in which the trio may be called upon at the World Cup where this weekend's experience could prove invaluable to back up his decisions.

"What happens if we get to the World Cup and Ben Smith blows a tyre or Rieko blows a hamstring and we've got to put some young guy in there who's never faced pressure like this before?

"It's ideal. This is the best game we could've asked for."

Regarding the dropped trio, Hansen added he was confident they'd find their form for the tournament which starts in five weeks' time.

"They're not far off it, to be fair."