All Blacks tick all the boxes against Tonga - Kayes

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His players all came through unscathed. So that’s a tick. Some of the fringe All Blacks, including rookie first five Josh Ioane, got good game time and in the case of Ioane, played well.  So that’s another tick.


Ben Smith showed some of his old self with his pace and eye for a gap, but also how he created for others with vision and quick hands.  Another tick.


Wings Sevu Reece and George Bridge were also in the thick of the action, scoring tries and creating tries for others.  That’s a tick too.


Skipper Kieran Read continued his steady improvement and seems on track to being back to his old self in Japan, and Ardie Savea was...well what Ardie Savea is.


He was a menace at the breakdown, good on defence (though there was little defending to be down) and superb with the ball showcasing his pace and skills. Two ticks there.


Ryan Crotty made a successful return from injury and Beauden Barrett showed that he is still a pretty handy first five. Two more ticks.

 And that pack went well, with the tight five (and in particular the props) busy and contributing on attack and defence. More ticks.


So a lot of positive stuff for the coach to be happy with as the All Blacks fly to Japan on Monday with ample time to prepare for the first World Cup match against South Africa.

What will have frustrated Hansen was Tonga.  They were poor. Yes, they were always going to be outclassed over the 80 minutes but they were poor from the get go.


Tonga have been together for more than a month playing in the Pacific Nations Cup and are well coached with former Wallaby No8 Toutai Kefu in charge and Kiwis Richard Watt and Dan Cron helping with the forwards.


They expected to put out a better performance and will be disappointed.

They know they should have been better than they were, and on the evidence from Hamilton are in for a tough World Cup in a pool with England, France, Argentina and USA.


This Test was over as a contest within 20 minutes and while Hansen will be pleased with much of what he saw, he knows his players weren’t tested.

They were seldom under pressure - at least the sort of pressure they’ll face against South Africa - and got away with things they won’t do against better opposition.


But that won’t bother Hansen too much.  He knows the All Blacks will make the quarterfinals and that World Cups are about building toward the playoffs.


In that regard, the All Blacks at least got a taste of what is to come in their other pool games as they play Namibia, Canada (who Tonga beat 33-23) and Italy.


In each of those games, as it was in Hamilton, it will be important to stay focused, to not play willy-nilly rugby and for those who come off the bench to still make an impact even if the score has blown out.


The All Blacks did all of that in Hamilton in a dress rehearsal that ticks most of Hansen’s boxes, especially the “no new injuries” one.


He reckons they are exactly where he wants them to be and with two World Cup medals to his name Hansen deserves to be trusted on that.




Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post,, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport. He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.


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