New Zealand

Kiwis now have a 'sharp edge'

Mon, 11 Nov 2013 09:28
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There's a real edge going back to Twickenham
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New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has said his side had learnt from last year's mistakes ahead of their much-anticipated rematch with England at Twickenham this week.

The All Blacks began their European tour with a hard-fought 26-19 win over France in Paris at the weekend.

The French proved surprisingly stiff opposition and even came close to snatching a draw late on as they banged away at the New Zealand tryline knowing a converted score would level things up.

But New Zealand held on to take their perfect record this year to 12 wins.

It was a similar case last year before they went to Twickenham with a 100 percent record only to lose 38-21 to inspired hosts.

At the time Hansen suggested they were drained at the end of a long hard season but this time he has guarded against it.

"We made a change before we played Australia after the Argentina and South Africa league matches in the Rugby Championship," he said.

"That change was to have more time at home, it left us in a lot better physical and mental shape. And we're hoping we don't get a virus again.

"There's a real edge going back to Twickenham, they're going well, we're going ok. Both teams are looking forward to playing there.

"I hear that already they're talking about scoring four tries and going to number two in the world, so obviously they've got a lot of confidence."

Captain Richie McCaw said the players had been frustrated by their inability to really let loose against an effective French team that attacked them at will and regularly broke the gainline.

The All Blacks made the difference in the first 20 minutes of the second half when tries from Charles Piutau and Kieran Read, thanks to an ingenious pass from Piutau, opened up a 14-point lead before Brice Dulin's score set up a nervy finale.

"Probably the one thing was the set piece, especially the scrum. At times under foot it didn't help," said McCaw.

"We were just frustrated we made mistakes at critical times and ended up on defence when we had the chance to put pressure on.

"It's easy to get frustrated by mistakes made but you can't change that, you've got to get on and deal with what's next.

"At the end we were defending because of poor skill execution."

But he paid tribute to the French for nullifying their attacking game.

"They were pretty good at reading and getting up and stopping our plays," he added.

"We had numbers but they spot tackled, they were pretty effective, you've got to give them credit for picking that."

For France coach Philippe Saint-Andre it was just another one that got away in a year which has seen them win just once in nine matches and lose four times to New Zealand.

"I think about the record they're on, they played 31 games, won 29, drew one and lost one, so it must be the best record in the history of rugby," he said about the All Blacks.

"We showed a lot of character, everything, but they're very clever; very, very intelligent; we were six, maybe 10 times very close to their line. Four or five metres out but then they had two opportunities and scored two tries.

"We must congratulate them and we carry on and work harder to be a little better because when we scored we were penalised straight away, so it's the little details in key moments."

AFP

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