Tougher Rugby Championship in prospect

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Lynn McConnell     24 Jun 2018     Getty Images

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen whose side completed a 3-0 sweep of France with their 49-14 win in Dunedin on Saturday said Australia had got a good squad of around 30 players together and had enjoyed a great series with Ireland, a series they could have won.


"They'll come with confidence and they beat us the last time we played and they would probably tell us they should have beaten us the time before that.

"We're going to have to prepare well for them and look forward to that challenge," he said.

South Africa had also improved under their new coach when beating England 2-1 in their series.

Hansen was expecting key personnel including lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Vaea Fifita, first five-eighths Beauden Barrett, prop Nepo Laulala and flanker Liam Squire to be back in consideration while there was encouraging news on hooker Dane Coles and prop Kane Hames – Coles for the latter part of the tournament while Hames had resumed training.

From Saturday's game the only injury concerns were flanker Ardie Savea who had a high-ankle sprain and was likely to be out for three-four weeks and Sonny Bill Williams who had a grade 2 AC on his left shoulder so would probably be out for two to three weeks.

The selectors and coaching staff had achieved most things they wanted from the three-Test series although they had been disappointed in the second Test. They had learnt lessons from that effort and had been able to apply them in Dunedin. He was happy with the way a 'relatively inexperienced side' had performed.

The performance of Damian McKenzie at first five-eighths had reflected the improved play of the pack which hadn't been present in the second Test. It hadn't been a perfect performance but he was a young player and that was what happened. It would have been the same for Richie Mo'unga if he had started because he was also young, Hansen said.

McKenzie still had to work on his kicking game. Hansen praised his decision to kick on the occasion the ball rolled over the deadball line early in the first half. There had been plenty of space but if it hadn't bounced the way it had everyone would be saying what a good kick it was.

"He started to see things and not always was his execution right, he's got to tidy up a couple of those loose passes, those intercept passes, but the rest of his game was outstanding.

"His running game is unbelievable. If you give him half a yard he's gone. He's versatile, he can play fullback, we know that so it gives us a little wriggle room on the bench," he said.

Because of the way he played the game there would be no end to what he might try in a game and due to that there would be mistakes but what needed to be eliminated was avoidable errors.

"He's starting to understand that and starting to get better at it. He's still only young. He's early in his career and as he goes along he'll get better and better," he said.