Laidlaw confident All Blacks can cope in Hamilton

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Lynn McConnell     01 Feb 2018     Getty Images

New Zealand had the power athletes, they had both a long and short kicking game and they could play a power game in the middle of the field, going either side, if needed, he said.

Laidlaw added that while New Zealand were playing at home and would take a lift from that, the opposite applied to visiting sides who would remember for the rest of their careers if they were able to beat New Zealand on their home soil.

New Zealand have made two changes for the tournament with Caleb Clarke and Joe Webber included with Andrew Knewstubb unavailable while recovering from concussion and Kurt Baker named as 13th man.

While there was a chance Knewstubb could be ready by Saturday his injury, Laidlaw said, was a chance other players to be given an opportunity with a view towards selection for the Commonwealth Games. Hamilton is the last tournament before the wider squad is named to prepare for the Games.

"We've got to expose some young players to Sevens, so we've got an opportunity to expose them and give them game time and see what they're about. It's really important, we want to build a team that can win gold or a medal in 2020," he said.

With Clarke having signed with the Blues, it had been a good chance to have a look at him during the Sydney and Hamilton tournaments. And the same applied to Etene Nanai-Seturo.

"They're the type of players we want to target to help us win in two or three years time," he said.

Nanai-Seturo did not appear to have been affected by the eligibility issues surrounding him and so far as Laidlaw had concerned he had performed well at his first Sevens tournament.

"We're excited, I know there's been a bit going on in the background but as I said earlier my job is to coach rugby and his is to play. He's trained really well, he's recovered well for a player… his first start he topped in metres which is unbelievable," he said.

Clarke had also shown signs of his potential.

"I think the most surprising thing for me has been his subtlety, he's got really nice hands and soft skills for such a big guy, with so much raw power he's actually got a really good distribution game. We're quite excited about what he could to this weekend with a bit more game time too," he said.

The side had reviewed their Sydney effort and there had been lots of things that were done well, and were an advance on the first two tournaments.

"The game is settling down, we're starting to understand what works for us and the challenge in the knockout games where teams change and do slightly different things is to adapt quickly. There has been a lot of focus around 'what-ifs' and making sure we know what our game looks like," he said.

France would be a tricky opponent in the New Zealand side's first game on Saturday. They had a chance to beat Argentina in their game in Sydney but dropped a genuine chance.

"France are really unpredictable, they're good with the ball in hand and score a lot of tries off their turnover attack. Scotland beat us the last time we played them and played really well at times at the weekend.

"And Argentina finished third so you could argue they're the form team, they're right up there with South Africa," he said.

They had a lot of pace and power and played the game slightly differently coming at sides in rucks and forced opponents to make a lot of tackles.

"It's quite a tricky group and one we think we'll have to roll our sleeves up in and work very hard to get through," he said.