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Australia 29-47 New Zealand, Rugby Championship
All Blacks damn Wallabies with faint praise
ESPN Staff
August 18, 2013

Steve Hansen had only praise for Richie McCaw
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New Zealand coach Steve Hansen baited and damned the Wallabies with faint praise after his relentless All Blacks performed another demolition job on Australia.

The All Blacks' 47-29 victory in the Rugby Championship-opening Bledisloe Cup Test at ANZ Stadium in Sydney left Australia having won just two of their past 18 games against the Rugby World Cup 2011 champions, but Hansen surprisingly suggested Australia weren't getting their share of luck in the trans-Tasman encounters.

"It's just at the moment we seem to have a little bit more luck against them than they have against us," Hansen said as Australia face the Herculean task of beating the All Blacks twice in New Zealand if they are to hold the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 11 years. "But I think they've got the nucleus of a very good side, and I think they've had a nucleus of a very good side for a long time."

The coach was understandably delighted with the victory, but he was adamant that complacency would not be a factor in Wellington. "There's still some stuff we need to tidy up and until we win two [games] we don't own [the Bledisloe Cup]," Hansen said. "I was obviously very, very happy with the performance, it's not every day that you can come here and get 40-odd points."

Hansen, meanwhile, said that Aaron Cruden and captain Richie McCaw had answered their critics with their efforts.

"To come back after having a break and everyone doubted him, to get through the 70 minutes like [McCaw] did, shows the character of the bloke once again," Hansen said. "So hopefully there won't be any more doubters.

"I want to talk a little bit about Aaron Cruden, too. There's people that question-marked him at times at this level. I think he showed tonight that he is a true international player of world-class ability, and he led the team very well."

McCaw, for his part, accepted that he had been "a little bit inaccurate early" but he "loved being out there again", saying he was "very happy" both with his own performance and that of the team. "Often a performance doesn't just happen," he said. "It's about a good preparation, and the guys set about their work pretty well this week."

McCaw said of his Test return after only one club match and two Super Rugby appearances off the bench: "Not too bad. Probably in the first 20 minutes I got a bit over-eager at times but I settled into it. It was good fun to be involved and run around again."

Asked if he felt his All Blacks had a stranglehold over the Wallabies, the skipper replied: "From my point of view and our team point of you don't look at it like that. There's very little between these teams. If you don't get the prep right and put the performance out there, you come second. If you start thinking you're better than you are you'll tip up. The greatest challenge in sport is to back up performance after performance."

Hansen also was pleased with the performances of veteran centre Ma'a Nonu and flanker Steven Luatua, who made his run-on Test debut in Sydney.

Asked about Australia's fly-halves Matt Toomua and Quade Cooper, Hansen couldn't resist making a jibe about the number of New Zealand-born pivots in the two squads. "I'm just happy that I've got Dan Carter and Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett for that matter, so all five of these people are very good rugby players," Hansen said. "Four of them are New Zealanders, and I'm not sure where Toomua was born either [Melbourne]."

© AAP with Sportal
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