Campaign has benefited All Blacks for Lions

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Lynn McConnell     25 Nov 2016     Getty Images

Coach Steve Hansen said it had been clear during this year's northern tour that last year's World Cup had forced changes in the way the British nations were playing their games and they were tougher propositions as was clear from Ireland. England had improved and Scotland were showing good touches as well.


"For this young side to come up this year and experience that has been great for us, particularly with the Lions next year we're getting a taste of what's going to happen in June. From that point of view it's been a great trip," he said.

France were a settled side and under coach Guy Noves they understood how they wanted to play and they were getting better and better at and would be formidable on Saturday, he said.

"It's been a big year for this group, losing as many people as we did at the start of it, we've managed to introduce 11 new caps, re-introduced people like Israel Dagg back into the team and one or two others. There was obviously a question mark around what would happen after the World Cup and they've stood up extremely well.

"They were asked another question after Chicago: did they have the strength of character to stand up and right that wrong and now the next question is can they stand up and do it after what they did in Ireland?

"We'll find out a little bit more about them [against France] but it's been a very good year from a learning point of view, from a selector's point of view and a coaching point of view," he said.
But Saturday would be another line in the sand for the side.

Captain Kieran Read had developed as a good captain, albeit a different captain to Richie McCaw. He did some things similarly, and one of those was playing well.

"You expect your leaders to be some of the best players on the park. He's done that throughout the year. He's struggled a little bit with his wrist over the last part of the season but he's still playing very well and he's taken the opportunity to lead with his own style, he's very inclusive and done a very good job.

"He'll get better because he's only young at the job, new in the job, and having had the experience of nine Test matches prior to this year was a big advantage to him. Look, he's only in his infancy and he will get better as time goes on," he said.

Naming Matt Todd to start in the Test was special cause of satisfaction for Hansen because he epitomised what a team member should be.

"He never complains when he doesn't make the squad, he's very understanding, he just goes away and works hard and when he is named in the team and maybe not in the 23 he's the same. He'll produce a training week that is great for him and great for the rest of the group to prepare and then when he's named in the squad he's just the same. He never wavers, he's always got a smile on his face and he epitomises the values we try to live to and he's grateful for every moment and chance that he gets.

"He's been outstanding when he has played but he just plays in a position in which we have got some quality people," he said.