Hansen happy with All Blacks 'composure'

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 05:23

REACTION: New Zealand coach Steve Hansen praised the "composure" shown by an experimental All Blacks side after they came from behind to launch their tour of Europe with a 31-22 win over the Barbarians at Twickenham.

The world champions were in danger of defeat after falling 5-17 behind in Saturday's first half against a Barbarians side where 10 of the starting XV were from New Zealand and not a single member of the matchday 23 a native European - a sign of how things have changed for a 127-year-old invitational team once built on British and Irish players.

But three converted tries in six second-half minutes turned the tide, with captain for the day Beauden Barrett - leading the side for the first time in place of rested regular skipper Kieran Read - adding the goal-points.

Flyhalf Barrett was one of the few New Zealand players at Twickenham set to retain his place for the November 11 clash against France in Paris, the first full international of a trip also featuring Tests against Scotland and Wales.

By contrast, the bulk of the team that kicked off on Saturday in a match where a crowd of more than 62 000 witnessed nine tries in total, won't be in action again until the All Blacks play a "French XV" in Lyon on November 14.

"A young side, we had to show some composure. A new skipper [Barrett], he showed a lot," said Hansen. 

"There was a lot of good stuff there and some good learning," he added after returning to the scene of New Zealand's 2015 World Cup Final win over Australia.

"We'll see how they grow now between now and Lyon, that group."

New Zealand may remain top of the world rankings but they have occasionally looked fallible this year, this with the British and Irish Lions holding the All Blacks to a 1-1 draw in a three-match series.

"They're vulnerable, but they're still travelling well," said Barbarians coach Robbie Deans, himself a former All Blacks fullback. "They're giving teams a sniff. 

They gave us a fair amount of encouragement in the first half."

But Deans, previously the coach of both the Crusaders and Australia, added: "They're in no hurry to give up their status as the best team in the world.

"They're also building depth. All the players exposed to this create a pool that are hungry."

The Barbarians, who pushed Australia close with former Wallaby boss Alan Jones as their coach before losing 28-31 in Sydney the previous weekend, have seen the future of their showpiece fixtures repeatedly called into question during a professional era of ever more congested schedules and mounting concerns over player welfare.

But Deans, who also guided the Barbarians to a 31-31 draw with South Africa at Wembley last year, was adamant they deserved their place in the modern game. 

"It's thriving, it's alive and well," he said. 

"The jersey means a lot to them and it's a week that is very special in a player's life.

"This is the way rugby should be... It's a player's game and sometimes coaches forget that," said Deans, who coaches the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan. "The cross-pollination is stimulating."

Deans cited the effect of playing for the Barbarians on Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo'unga, one of their three try-scorers on Saturday.

"Richie Mo'unga was with us last year off the bench. He's a starter now and knocking on the door for the All Blacks.

"It will happen, it's inevitable, and experiences like this accelerate that." 

Deans' comments were underlined by Barbarians captain Andy Ellis, now enjoying his third stint with the club.

"I feel like I'm a seven-year-old again running out on Hagley Park [in Christchurch] in the frost and playing rugby because I love playing rugby," said the former New Zealand scrumhalf. "I think that's pretty cool."

Agence France-Presse