Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Hansen looks forward to chess game with Irish

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images.

Rugby 101 came and went, now the All Blacks have to work on the rest of their education.

They achieved a high pass mark in their debut under coach Steve Hansen, but the new ringmaster was cracking the vocal whip as the 43,300 crowd dispersed from Eden Park.

Hansen wants to balance work and play, he is an advocate of intense sessions leavened by other activities to round out players' welfare.

He said the job for the second test in Christchurch was to go through their reviews, note what had or hadn't happened and go about fixing those areas on Saturday. It was part of the coaches and players' constant rugby education.

This week, Hansen said, would be like a game of chess with the All Blacks and Ireland thinking about what to produce in Christchurch.

"We have got to be smart with our review process and think how we can take advantage of what we have done in this game to find space and score tries," he said after their opening 42-10 victory.

The Irish reaction would be interesting in the next two tests as they tried to stem the black tide.

"They will look at their own game and look to improve that as well and that is exactly what we have to do."

The breakdown would be an area for the All Blacks to concentrate on this week and both teams would be devising ideas to help their game and hinder their rivals.

"We call it the ABCs," Hansen said.

"You Assume a lot because you have video of the game, you Believe nothing and you Confirm it on game day."

Channelling much of that emphasis is captain Richie McCaw, who said the senior players and management were driving the attitude and standards needed in test rugby.

"We were pretty determined not just to roll in and expect it to happen," he said of the side's return to test rugby after the World Cup.

"We have gone right back to the start and made sure that we did the little things that ensure we get the performance.

"We have got a wee way to go for the game we are after but in terms of that, it has to be led from the top.

"It is good to have a laugh at times and make sure we work hard when we are on the job.

"We have done things a bit different from last year but we have also kept the things that have worked for us in the past and I think that has been a good mix."

Hansen was encouraged by the mix in his squad and the way they had gelled. He wanted experienced players and also to promote young, exciting talent to understand the demands of test rugby.

When he was coaching Wales he learned how tough it was to dispense with experienced players.

"It is a tough old game, test rugby," Hansen said.

"It is just totally different from anything else and if you ask the guys in the shed who have been playing well for their franchises, to a man they will say it was good to wake up to test rugby again, here we go."

Playing internationals was not just about physical prowess. It also required mental application to cope when things went awry.

One of the themes in this first week had been asking the senior All Blacks to lead.

They had created previous high standards and they needed to return and perform at those levels. That made it easier for newer squad members to perform their duties.

- NZ Herald

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