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Two senior statesmen of All Blacks rugby were lauded for their contribution in last night's 14-10 second test defeat of France in Wellington.

Lock Brad Thorn and hooker Keven Mealamu - the only New Zealand squad members in their 30s - were key figures in a vastly improved tight five performance.

Thorn, 34, flung himself into rucks with trademark vigour and proved to be a special hero when he saved a try with 20 minutes remaining. A desperate Thorn tackle knocked the ball out of Vincent Clerc's arms as the winger dived over the line in quite possibly the matchwinning moment on low-scoring night.

New Zealand's 11th oldest test player, the former Australian rugby league star was showered with praise by teammates.

No 8 and Crusaders teammate Kieran Read laughed when asked if he would be performing the same feats as Thorn at the same age - in 11 years' time.

"That'd be great if I can, he's a phenomenal athlete who looks after his body really well," Read said.

"It shows the man he is that he can still be doing what he does at his age."

Mealamu turned back the clock with a vintage 67th test performance, throwing well to the lineout in treacherous conditions while making several of his trademark burrowing bursts.

The 30-year-old played nearly the entire test with bandages swathing his head after suffering a deep cut in the opening minutes.

Forwards coach Steve Hansen was clearly pleased with the pair, also suggesting experienced prop Tony Woodcock was at the heart of a major improvement up front from the 27-22 first test loss at Dunedin.

"It's what you expect from an All Blacks pack. Clearly, we were all a little disappointed with the performance last week but it was a good week from a training point of view, the older guys have really stood up," Hansen said.

"They came to the party and allowed the younger people in the group to tag along and enjoy the occasion as well."