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Hansen warns All Blacks to shape up

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has warned his new-look All Blacks to stick to the game plan ahead of their tour of Europe after going rogue for periods of Saturday’s 54-6 win over Japan.

The All Blacks brushed past the Brave Blossoms with the minimum of fuss in their first-ever test match on Japanese soil at Chichibunomiya Stadium, but Hansen was still left unimpressed by what he perceived as slackness in the ranks despite the world champions scoring eight tries.

New Zealand can expect a far stiffer test against France, England and Ireland in the weeks to come, and Hansen intends to drill home his message after watching Japan hold an experimental All Blacks lineup featuring four debutants scoreless for almost the opening 10 minutes of each half.

“We scored some great tries when we stuck to the systems that we want to play, and got caught occasionally trying to play their game, which they play a lot better than we do — a helter-skelter game,” Hansen said after the match.

“I’ll tell them — they’ll find out. They weren’t that bad, but at the same time there were some lessons there that we need to learn as a team. If we want to be what we say we want to be, we need to learn those lessons. We have to have honest performance conversations.

“Having said that, we’ve scored eight tries, so we can’t grumble too much.”

Captain Richie McCaw was one of seven New Zealand try-scorers as he returned to the lineup from a calf injury, but the 121-cap veteran knows France will be a different proposition in Paris next Sunday.

“It was always going to be one of those games where it was easy to get frustrated and try things that you shouldn’t and make mistakes, and I think we did that at times,” said McCaw. “We did score some good tries and stuff, but one thing I am really disappointed in was the discipline. We gave away a lot of penalties, and that takes momentum away from you.

“This week was a challenge in terms of it being a game you are expected to win. That’s a different challenge to the game we’ve got next week, and there’s some guys here who will be involved next week and they’ll be keen for that one. Next week’s going to be a hell of a match, and it won’t take much to turn the screws on that.”

Japan came agonizingly close to breaching the All Blacks defense only for Kenki Fukuoka to be denied a try on the last play of the game by video replay, but New Zealand fullback Beauden Barrett was impressed by the home side’s resilience nonetheless.

“They were very good defensively, especially in the conditions,” said Barrett, who scored one try and kicked two conversions. “They had a good front line and there may have been space at the back, but from what we’ve seen it was quite difficult to penetrate.

“We had to engage them. That was our game plan early on, to get the forwards involved and I suppose go to war.”

Japan caretaker Scott Wisemantel led the team in the absence of coach Eddie Jones, who suffered a mild stroke last month, and the stand-in sees reason to be optimistic about the future of Japanese rugby.

“I thought there was a lot of positives out of today,” said Wisemantel. “I thought it was very positive the way that the team always endeavored to attack, with and without the ball, and there’s probably just a few errors that cost us.”

England beats Australia

London AP

Australia’s latest bid for a Grand Slam of the home unions collapsed at the first hurdle on Saturday, letting slip a halftime lead to lose 20-13 to injury-hit England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Captain Chris Robshaw and Owen Farrell scored tries in an eight-minute spell before the hour mark for the English, who recovered from a 13-6 deficit at the break to begin the autumn series in encouraging fashion and maintain their progress under coach Stuart Lancaster.

“It’s another learning process for us,” said Australia No. 8 Ben Mowen, who was captain after James Horwill was stripped of the armband this week. “We’ll take a lot of good things out of today, especially from the first half, and try and fix the things that didn’t go so well in the second.”