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Why Steve Hansen forced All Blacks to play with just 14 men

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Sunday, 8 September 2019, 1:52PM
(Photo / Getty)

Job done in a most emphatic way for the All Blacks and coach Steve Hansen, who admitted after the 92-7 demolition of Tonga at Waikato Stadium that he deliberately forced his men to finish the game with 14 players in the final 15 minutes in order to put more pressure on them.

Clearly mindful not to offend Tonga with his comments, Hansen said Ryan Crotty was scheduled to play only 65 minutes on his return to the top level from a broken thumb and that while he could have contrived to have Aaron Smith play on the wing at the end, he was comfortable with a numerical disadvantage.

"We ran out of reserves and Ryan only needed to play for 65 minutes on his return," Hansen said.

When asked whether it was in preparation for a yellow or red card at the upcoming World Cup, he replied: "We have plenty of those tests anyway and we don't need too many more of them.

"Obviously his [Crotty's] welfare was more important and it was a good opportunity again to put ourselves under a bit of pressure when it comes to how many we have on the park.

"Ben [Smith] came off - he was a bit tight in the hamstring. Beauden [Barrett] had already come off. We could have left Aaron sitting on the bench and put him on the wing but we were happy to put Aaron on for TJ [Perenara] and then of course we realised we had to take Ryan off at 65 minutes because he's just come back and hasn't played for so long.

"He played 40 last week and 65 today and will be good to go in a couple of weeks' time.

"We had to make that choice and the score told us we could make that choice with relatively low risk."

This match was never about the final score – which was impressive for the All Blacks and poor for Tonga, who were soundly beaten by halftime and yet rallied in the final moments to have the last word with a try for their skipper Siale Piutau.

"Everyone got a good run and no injuries," Hansen said. "We played some good footy and we got the opportunity to cement some combinations again."

Hansen described first-five Josh Ioane's performance as a "good introduction" once he replaced Beauden Barrett at halftime and professed himself pleased with the performance of the outside backs, with George Bridge scoring four tries, and Sevu Reece and Ben Smith two each.

"They played well and we saw Bender come back in and play well. The pressures on, it's good competition and everyone will have to play well to make the 23 which is what you want going into a World Cup.

"We've had a good build-up, we've played some good footy. Early on [in the season] we probably didn't play as well as we would have liked but that's usually the way we go. We start slow.

"We've had a good hit out today, we've got everybody available for selection at this stage in a fortnight's time. As long as everything goes okay over the next 14 days we'll be in good shape."

Hansen said he thought referee Angus Gardner handled the Jordie Barrett collision against James Faiva "brilliantly", adding: "what he saw was 100 per cent what happened. They tripped over each other and it was an unfortunate thing."

Asked about the imminent defence of the William Webb Ellis trophy after two previous successes, Hansen said: "I'm probably even more excited about this one. We've got a massive opportunity to do something that hasn't been done before and that's obviously to win three in a row. When you get challenges like that, that's the sort of pressure you want to be under.

"Imagine if we manage to do that and how exciting that will be."

Downcast Tonga coach Toutai Kefu said: "I think the defence was pretty woeful, just the one on one tackles and the connections.

"We had to bin the first half and start anew and go back to what we had planned to do. We finished the second half okay. But I'll have to go back to the tape and really assess it."

 

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