All Blacks progress but 'work to do'
June 22, 2013
Daniel Carter contributed 14 points © Getty Images
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was quick to accept the 24-9 win against France was less than convincing, but he believes the team developed through the 3-0 series whitewash as they look to step up again when they defend the Rugby Championship title from August.
In perfect conditions at Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, it was apparent the players had not mastered the game plan introduced in the first two Tests. Dan Carter, in his first international appearance of the season, did not look comfortable under the structures that Aaron Cruden to which had adapted during his absence in Auckland and Christchurch. Cruden's performance during the clinical 30-0 win in the second Test in Christchurch offered proof that Hansen's kick-run blueprint has merit, , when executed right, but Carter had to call on all 95 Test caps' worth of experience to slot a vital penalty goal that earn his side the lead for the second time. "Tonight wasn't easy for DC [Carter]," Hansen said. "I think he would like to have another Test match next week to have another go. As we saw with Crudz [Aaron Cruden] it takes a bit of time to get into the saddle."
Hansen couldn't shake the feeling that a far more comprehensive performance could have been achieved in New Plymouth. "I wouldn't say we're completely satisfied," he said. "The poorest part of our game was our ball maintenance and going into the next series we're going to have to improve that."
Kieran Read led the All Blacks admirably to secure his first series victory as captain, but he said the side had lacked intensity at the breakdown in the first half before turning things around. "Perhaps we didn't match them early on which gave them just a little bit of confidence in that area ... it made for a tough night," he said. "It took time but I felt we got to where we needed to be."
Steve Hansen is content with the progress of the All Blacks
Hansen pointed out that players such as Dane Coles had shown huge growth during the series, and he said the addition of Sam Cane and Cruden to the leadership group had signalled their coming of age as Test players. He was also pleased with the effort of debutants Steven Luatua, Charles Piutau and Matt Todd, who boosted the team when they entered the match at a time when the All Blacks were under immense pressure.
"We can sit here and be frustrated with our performance because it wasn't our best, Hansen said. "But at the end of the day when you look at the whole package I think we're going to go away and say we're OK. We've given ourselves a pass mark but [we have to] keep working."
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