Li­ons Next For Hansen

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Paris: All Blacks coach Hansen, hav­ing ob­served his leg-weary side fight to sub­due a vig­or­ous and game French team 24-19 at Stade de France yes­ter­day, can now spend the sum­mer think­ing about how to give the Gat­land-coached Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons a best­ing when they tour New Zealand next winter. De­spite what hap­pened in Chicago three weeks ago, when Ire­land put an end to the All Blacks’ 18-match win­ning streak at Sol­dier Field, Hansen has mul­ti­ple rea­sons to view this sea­son as a re­sound­ing suc­cess. The All Blacks coach had a big job of re­build­ing his side af­ter the World Cup, but came away with a near per­fect record.

Yet the All Blacks just loaded-up their can­nons and kept firing shots, fur­nish­ing a 13-1 record. Hansen may not have been throw­ing a party to cel­e­brate the way Beauden Barrett kicked in gen­eral play in Paris, but said play­ing north­ern hemi­sphere teams forced his play­ers to think about ad­just­ing their style. And that could be of ben­e­fit when the Li­ons tour next year. “Maybe we over-em­pha­sised it (the kick­ing game) a lit­tle bit, but to be fair I am quite happy with that,” Hansen said. “I would rather we learn. We are a young group, we have 20 play­ers who weren’t at last year’s World Cup, there are 11 new All Blacks and not many of them have played north­ern hemi­sphere rugby. Maybe Gat­land learned a few things, too. While Barrett was over-egging his kick­ing game, even though he var­ied his tac­tics in the sec­ond half by pop­ping lit­tle dinks and chips in be­hind the blue line, he was giv­ing the Li­ons’ man­age­ment a few ideas about how they could try and cre­ate self-doubt for the Ki­wis dur­ing the three-test series. Gat­land must have ex­cit­edly reached for the re­mote when he saw the French put the All Blacks’ scrum un­der tremen­dous pres­sure, as they rammed through it like a bull­dozer spread­ing mud prior to No 8 Louis Pi­camoles scor­ing his try in the sec­ond half.

As if to counter their strug­gles in that set-piece, the All Blacks had Le Bleus’ mea­sure with their li­ne­outs, and Barrett dis­played his at­tack­ing wiz­ardry by scor­ing his in­ter­cept try and set­ting-up Is­rael Dagg’s five-pointer by launch­ing a per­fect cross-kick to Ju­lian Savea’s wing.

Quite rightly, Hansen praised the French tenac­ity and will­ing­ness to shift the ball in con­tact to keep play alive. Big ball car­ry­ing flanker Kevin Gour­don, No 8 Pi­co­moles and backs Maxime Machenaud, Wes­ley Fo­fana, Vir­imi Vakatawa and Noa Nakaitaci breathed life into a team that has been stag­nant for too long.

“It felt like the old French rugby teams, they wanted to run the ball at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity,” Hansen said.” So, now Hansen, who says he is go­ing to hol­i­day at an undis­closed des­ti­na­tion where the sun shines brighter than chilly Paris, can rest easy. This team will only get bet­ter, he will hope. - Stuff

Is­rael Dagg (15) is con­grat­u­lated by Ju­lian Savea af­ter the scor­ing the All Blacks first try against France yes­ter­day.

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