Wednesday 17 January 2018

All Blacks switch focus to England after nail-biting win over France

Israel Dagg of the All Blacks is tackled by Wesley Fofana
Israel Dagg of the All Blacks is tackled by Wesley Fofana

The dust had barely settled on New Zealand's 26-19 win against France on Saturday when All Blacks coach Steve Hansen turned his thoughts to next weekend's test against England at Twickenham.

It was not really unexpected as England are the last side to have beaten the Blacks, who have won their 12 games in 2013 since losing 38-21 in London last December.

"There is a real edge going back to Twickenham," Hansen told reporters.

"They are going well, we are going OK. Both teams are looking forward to playing there."

Hansen, who praised his team's resilience in the Stade de France game against a spirited France, looked in defiant mood ahead of next weekend's clash.

"I hear that already they are talking about scoring four tries and going to number two in the world, so obviously they have got a lot of confidence," he said with a sarcastic grin.

England beat Argentina 31-12 at Twickenham on Saturday with a solid performance although they faded after the break.

It was just after the interval, incidentally, that world champions New Zealand took the game away from France with tries from Charles Piutau and Kieran Read putting the visitors 14 points ahead before Brice Dulin's late try set up a nail-biting finish.

The All Blacks, even if a few mistakes left them frustrated at times, remained composed to hand Les Bleus their eighth consecutive defeat against New Zealand.

"We were just frustrated that we made mistakes at critical times and ended up on the defence when we had the chance to put the pressure," said All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, whose aggressive defending was once again key in his team's performance although he was penalised several times.

"It's easy to get frustrated by mistakes made but you can't change that, you've got to get on and deal with what's next," he added, referring to New Zealand's problems in the scrum against

 the French.

"Probably the one thing was the set piece, especially the scrum. At times under foot it didn't help," he said.

In the end, what made the difference was New Zealand's remarkable efficiency and a stout defence.

Les Bleus came close to the line numerous times thanks to some inspired moves on the wide side, but went over only once.

"They are very, very intelligent," France manager Philippe Saint-Andre said.

"We were six, perhaps even 10 times very close to their line. Four or five metres out but then they had two opportunities and they scored two tries."

New Zealand, however, were ready for the challenge.

"That's why they call it a test match - it's a test of your resolve, your mental strength," said Hansen.

"We weren't given the win, we had to fight for it."

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