Lions Next For Hansen
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.