Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Hansen talks up Italians

There was an overwhelming sense of the All Blacks not wanting to publicly dissect their 42-10 victory against Italy. The post-match commentary was polite, bland and decidedly on-message as far as the game's wider stakeholders would be concerned.

All Black coach Steve Hansen preferred to talk about the performance of the Italians rather than delve too deeply into where his own troops might have some issues. He also won serious brownie points for suggesting the occasion was not purely about the All Blacks securing a win - there was also a wider obligation to promote rugby in Italy, something that most definitely happen on their last visit in 2009.

"The 70,000-odd people who watched the game would have gone home with the idea that rugby is a great game," Hansen said. "This was much better than last time we played [in Italy] and I'm very thankful for that.

"We are conscious of the fact we are here to make Italian rugby popular as well as come here to play a test match and I think today that has happened.

"I'd like to congratulate Italy on playing great game of rugby. I thought their attitude to the game, their physicality to the game and their commitment to the game was outstanding."

Hansen probably felt he didn't need to labour the points in regard to his own team.

There was a general lack of cohesion and accuracy that denied them the chance to build momentum. The resilience and ability of the Italians was a factor, too, but the All Blacks will know they need to be more clinical, particularly at the tackled ball area where they failed to protect haflback Aaron Smith on too many occasions.

The video analysis will show they weren't as effective or as targeted as they needed to be in that area. There will also be some concerns about their first-up tackling which was again suspect in patches while the decision-making post line-break was often fuzzy.

The reluctance to dwell on the negatives may have also partly been driven by the fact that while it was a struggle, and while there were long periods of inaccurate rugby from the All Blacks, they did have the patience to stay with the game-plan and earn some reward for that in the final 10 minutes.

"I'd like to congratulate our guys," said Hansen. "This group of players haven't played for three weeks so although today was at times a bit rusty, I thought they showed a lot of composure, particularly the first half.

"I thought we met the challenge of the Italians and finished particularly strongly and played some tidy rugby."

- Herald on Sunday

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