Sunday 15 September 2019

Wales' No 1 ranking leaves Hansen bemused after All Blacks bounce back in style

Hansen: "We just need to get ourselves in the right frame of mind to go to the World Cup and win that." Photo: Getty Images Sportsdesk

Steve Hansen was bemused by Wales's new-found status as the world's No 1 side but the New Zealand boss didn't miss his opportunity to crank up the pressure on Warren Gatland's charges.

New Zealand bounced back from their record Test defeat to thrash Australia 36-0 in Auckland but were resigned to the fact that Wales are now the top-ranked side in the world after they defeated England.

"How do you work that out?" asked Hansen. "We won the (Bledisloe) Cup last night and lost the rankings. Ask yourself how that works. I've never understood their system. You win a game and you lose the top ranking?

"When you sit back, it's something that's going to happen anyway - the top-ranked sides are playing each other in the northern hemisphere, and you get more points if you beat top sides. We just need to get ourselves in the right frame of mind to go to the World Cup and win that. I'm not too worried about rankings."

Hansen, who was the Wales head coach 15 years ago, warned that while their dizzying status will bring added pressure.

"They've been great, no problem. Now they've got the expectation," he added. "They're the No 1 team in the world taking it into the World Cup. It couldn't be better timing."

Richie Mo'unga was among the All Blacks' five try-scorers - Aaron Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Sevu Reece and George Bridge also touched down - but with the World Cup opener against South Africa just five weeks away, provided cause for concern when he suffered a heavy tackle from Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and left the action nursing his right shoulder.

Mo'unga had opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty before opposite number Christian Lealiifano missed two kicks, the first one striking an upright.

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Lealiifano's profligacy was to prove costly when Reece Hodge spilt a Kurtley Beale pass after 29 minutes and Mo'unga produced a smart pick-up to burst over from 60 metres.

New Zealand went further ahead three minutes later as Beauden Barrett instigated a devastating counter-attack. George Bridge was on hand to break between two defenders and freed Aaron Smith for his 17th Test try, with Mo'unga adding the extras again.

The All Blacks were reduced to 14 men when Dane Coles grabbed scrum-half Nic White around the neck and threw him to the ground judo-style.

But New Zealand still dominated - their seven-man scrum overpowered Australia's eight-strong pack - and Sonny Bill Williams barrelled over six minutes after the restart.

Sevu Reece extended the lead with his first Test try, winning the race to his own kick for Barrett to convert before fellow winger Bridge wrapped up an emphatic win late on.

Elsewhere, South Africa winger S'busiso Nkosi scored two tries as the Springboks edged Argentina 24-18 at Loftus Versfeld.

Elton Jantjies kicked four penalties and a conversion for a personal 14-point haul while Guido Petti Pagadizaval and Pablo Matera crossed the whitewash for the Pumas.

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