Hansen seeking nutcracker 'sweet' for World Cup All Blacks

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That was All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's summation of where the world game was situated as they look to try and win three consecutive World Cups in Japan.

 

However, Hansen said, a reading of rugby history suggested someone was going to find the nutcracker to open the defensive edifice that teams had been putting up.

 

"Then when it does it will open up the floodgates for the attacking game to come strong again and then everyone will say there's a bias towards the attacking game and they will go away and work harder on what they are going to do on the defence.

 

"That's been the nature of the game tooing and froing for a long, long time so I'm looking forward to that nut being cracked," he said.

 

The All Blacks' game was about using the ball, and using a triple-threat game and that was what pleased him about the Australian Bledisloe Cup decider. The All Blacks had kicked well and ran and passed well and did those three things well.

 

Just doing one of those facets was not enough.

 

"Your kicking game is about shaping the defensive lines and if you've got a poor kicking game the defence doesn't have to worry about it. But if you've got a sharp kicking game then they have to readjust how they want to defend and that might create a bit more space," he said.

Hansen said the big plus for the All Blacks from their last pre-Cup game against Tonga on Saturday was that if replacement first five-eighths Josh Ioane did get game time then at some stage needed to go to Japan should injuries occur, he would have been in the middle and experienced Test play.

 

He said the decision to have Aaron Smith on the bench and TJ Perenara starting at halfback was largely due to Smith's world having been turned upside down, in a positive way, by becoming a father a week ago and it was probably best to have him come back into the team in a quiet way from the substitutes' bench.

 

Having Ryan Crotty back at second five-eighths was good because he was a senior pro in the side and had been involved for a long time and was a player who was known and trusted by those around him.

 

Flanker Sam Cane hadn't been included as he had a tight hamstring giving Matt Todd a start.

 

Richie Mo'unga's absence had seen Beauden Barrett moving back to first five-eighths with Ben Smith playing fullback.

 

Hansen said: "I want to see Bender [Smith] being Bender, trust his instincts, don't over-think things, just get out there and play with a big smile on his face and enjoy it.

 

"There's been a lot made about the fact he's lost all his form playing on the wing, that couldn't be further from the truth.

"The problem is that he has lost his own inner self-belief and his confidence – maybe that's because of the injury, maybe that's because everyone is talking about him leaving, he's got caught up in that and it's the last this, the last next thing, who knows?

 

"We've stripped the paint right back and he's just got to go out and trust…he's got good instincts, he's a good rugby player and not over-think it and I think we'll see a pretty good performance from him," Hansen said.

 

"Great players will always go through a little bit of adversity and that adversity will affect them from a confidence point of view, but they always bounce back. Dan Carter was a classic example. Struggle, struggle, struggle in 2015 to the point where everyone wanted him to be dropped except us and him.

 

"In the France game, things just clicked and bingo! The rest is history."

 

Hansen said while there had been comments about the physicality of Tonga, the fact was they were no more physical than anybody else, rugby was a physical game.

 

But they would be excited, they were going to have a huge fan base behind them and the All Blacks' job would be to quieten the noise down in the stands and on the park.

 

"It's about taking the game to them rather than sitting and waiting for them to take it to us. So if we go with good attitude, good intent, we'll get energy and we'll get our own physicality," he said.

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