Monday 25 September 2017

Hansen: We didn't expect to dominate so much

Steve Hansen. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Steve Hansen. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Nigel Whittaker

Steve Hansen says even he is surprised by how easily New Zealand have wrapped up the Rugby Championship.

The world champions sealed the Championship title with two rounds to spare and when asked if he expected his side to be so dominant this year, he said: "To be really honest, no.

"The thing we lost most was experience and the thing I'm most pleased with is how Reado (Kieran Reed) has stepped up to the plate.

"His leadership group have stepped up to the plate and taken over and probably gone to another level."

The All Blacks' runaway success this year has been attributed to New Zealand's policy of always preparing understudies and therefore paving the way for a near seamless transition from a World Cup squad to a rebuilding unit.

Hansen has made it clear that process will continue and with the Championship already wrapped up, he is likely to bring in new faces for the remaining two away games against Argentina and South Africa.

Roll

"We're getting to that point in the season where we have to roll the dice anyway," he said.

"You can't keep playing the same athletes the whole time and expect to have that same zing.

"We're coming to the end of the season when we go round the world twice in eight weeks and play seven Test matches, so we're going to have to use the rest of the squad."

The All Blacks have not been seriously challenged in the Rugby Championship, scoring 169 points, including 24 tries in their four matches so far.

New Zealand enjoyed a comfortable 41-13 victory over South Africa in Christchurch, but had to wait until Australia's victory over Argentina to confirm them as champions.

New Zealand's six tries were scored by six different players - Israel Dagg, Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock and TJ Perenara - while Beauden Barrett kicked a penalty and four conversions.

Australia signalled their return to form with a 36-20 win over Argentina, although the result handed their Rugby Championship title back to New Zealand.

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