Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hansen says focus on key areas paid off

New Zealand had reward in the areas they had been concentrating on in the lead-up to their 36-13 win over England in Hamilton on Saturday night.

Coach Steve Hansen said the things the All Blacks did well in their first half four-try blitz were what they worked hard on during the week. The skills had come through, the set piece had been good and the running lines had been great, the catching and passing was good and they finished off tries.

"From that point of view it was as good probably as you are going to get," he said.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said the second half frustration was attributable to England making the sort of start New Zealand wanted, and by making a couple of mistakes they had conceded a try.

"England kept playing and we went a wee bit hesitant, we didn't get our hands on the ball for quite a period," he said, adding that some frustration came in too when unable to build the required pressure.

McCaw said the team had got better each week but he felt they may have been guilty of not paying as much attention to their skills in the lead-up to the series, and the key now was not to regress before the regroup for the Rugby Championship.

Hansen said equalling the world record of 17 consecutive wins was pleasing from the point of view that they were trying to be successful in their approach of winning Test matches and the record was reward for that.

Hansen congratulated both sides for what he said was 'a fantastic three-match series'.

"In the past sometimes these June series have been under-rated by not bringing the best teams down and I think England paid us a massive amount of respect when they brought their best team down and it made for a wonderful three-match series," he said.

The first half performance had won the All Blacks the game in Hamilton and had been special. England had demonstrated their fighting spirit by making the second half a 7-7 draw, he said.

The series had seen several challenges thrown at the All Blacks and the second half had been another.

Hansen said the coaches had learnt a lot from the series and were not looking forward to the players going back to complete their Super Rugby programmes ahead of the Rugby Championship.

Backs coach Ian Foster said he was very pleased with starting debut centre Malakai Fekitoa who had done his basic roles very well and he had run some good, hard lines which required action from England's defence.

Hansen paid tributed to Foster's work with the backs in devising plays that challenged England's back defences, and which were exposed early by the All Blacks on Saturday.

"We got quality ball and we executed our skills better than we have in the last two Tests. Our running lines were better and our catch-pass was better so as a result of that we put them under a bit of pressure," he said.

Foster said he was conscious the midfield had been an area New Zealand hadn't executed that well against England over the last two years and they had to be at their best to achieve in that department which they hadn't done over the past two weeks.

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