Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Vito knee injury Hansen's only worry

The All Blacks could be without Victor Vito next weekend who has a medial ligament problem in his knee. Photo / Getty Images.
The All Blacks could be without Victor Vito next weekend who has a medial ligament problem in his knee. Photo / Getty Images.

As a performance, the All Blacks victory over Ireland could hardly have been better for new coach Steve Hansen.

His side chalked up the win in their first outing since winning the World Cup in October on the same Eden Park turf. The three new to test rugby - halfback Aaron Smith, lock Brodie Retallick and wing Julian Savea, all shone reassuringly - and his senior players, including Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Dan Carter, all had major parts to play.

Savea took the plaudits with his hat-trick, the most tries an All Black has scored in a test against Ireland, Smith did just what he was picked to do - clear the ball - and Retallick was outstanding in the contact areas.

Carter missed only one kick and was successful with some long-range ones. He also led the tackle count with 12 alongside Conrad Smith.

The other important factor is that there is still much to improve on as the All Blacks dissect the 42-10 victory.

The breakdown was talked about by Hansen and McCaw afterwards as an area not quite up to scratch, and Ireland competed well in the scrum, plus, just as it seemed a thrashing was on the cards with the score at 30-3, the Irish scored a try through Fergus McFadden to tighten the game up.

There won't be much room for complacency in Christchurch ahead of the second test on Saturday.

Hansen was in an ebullient mood today as he offered a post mortem examination of the previous night's events and agreed when asked whether the performance exceeded expectations.

"I guess it did. What we were looking for was a really good attitude and to try and establish some forms of patterns that we've been working on. But you also expect your team to take a while to jell when they're coming from five different teams - and they jelled pretty quickly, to be fair, so I'm very happy."

There was nervousness in the camp before the test. Would the two training camps be sufficient to focus the minds of players from five franchises? It turns out the All Blacks didn't need to worry too much about the limited build up. The enthusiasm of the new players and determination of the senior men meant there was a steely focus all week which translated into a winning combination.

"The thing that pleased me most of all was not the debutants, it was the leaders in our team and our senior players," Hansen said after the match. "They could have easily come into this game and been comfortable. All week they have displayed an enthusiasm and an excitement and a commitment to get the job done and they led the way."

Captain McCaw added: "We were pretty determined not to just roll in and expect it to happen. We've gone right back to the start and made sure we did all the little things to get the performance."

The All Blacks could be without Victor Vito, who has a medial ligament problem in his knee. He left the field with a cut head after colliding with Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll but it turns out there was a bigger worry a bit further south. Adam Thomson will replace him if required and Hansen said no one else would be brought in at this stage.

"We're not sure where that's going to go, so we'll just give it a couple of days and make some assessments after that," Hansen said. Keven Mealamu is closer to being available but Hansen is likely to take a cautious approach on the hooker's calf injury.

The Irish have problems in the front row, with Cian Healy (shoulder) and Declan Fitzpatrick (hamstring) adding to Mike Ross's absence with a hamstring injury.

It is just one more issue they have to deal with after a match in which O'Driscoll admitted they were often chasing shadows.

All Blacks 42 (Julian Savea 3, Adam Thomson, Conrad Smith tries; Dan Carter 3 pens, 3 cons)

Ireland 10 (Fergus McFadden try; Sexton pen, con)

HT: 23-3

All Blacks 42 (Julian Savea 3, Adam Thomson, Conrad Smith tries; Dan Carter 3 pens, 3 cons)

Ireland 10 (Fergus McFadden try; Sexton pen, con)

HT: 23-3

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 21 Oct 2014 23:56:37 Processing Time: 406ms