You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Comment: All Blacks 2016 re-establishment a success

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/11/2016 Angelo Risso

Israel Dagg celebrates his try against France with All Blacks teammates Anton Leinert-Brown and Julian Savea. © Phil Walter/Getty Images Israel Dagg celebrates his try against France with All Blacks teammates Anton Leinert-Brown and Julian Savea. At the start of 2016, having lost a host of legendary players, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the theme of the year would be re-establishment.

And after 14 Tests, 13 victories, eight countries and every trophy on offer, Hansen says the first step towards a new All Blacks epoch is complete.

The world champions cut down an adventurous French outfit 24-19 in their final Test of the year on Saturday, nabbing three tries to one despite having less ball and territory.

After steamrolling Wales in the June series and their southern hemisphere opponents, the All Blacks have found a new challenge in the northern hemisphere, coming under intense pressure.

But unlike in the south, the side seems to have found a different way to win - brutal efficiency and rock-hard defence, rather than outright dominance.

Their ability to play various styles pleased Hansen, who told reporters on Sunday his troops had successfully overcome adversity following their record-busting loss to Ireland in Chicago.

The 2016 leadership group, headed by skipper Kieran Read and regulars such as Ben Smith, Sam Cane and Sam Whitelock, had learned plenty of lessons too.

"The last nine weeks have been extremely tough, the northern hemisphere sides have clearly asked themselves some questions after the World Cup and their disappointments," Hansen said.

"They're playing a different style to what they were formerly doing, and they've asked some questions and again I thought our boys stood up."

Following their Rugby Championship trips to Buenos Aires and Durban, the side have travelled to Chicago and across Europe via the third Bledisloe at Eden Park.

In previous years the side has struggled to maintain their high standards as the off-season neared, but if anything seemed more focused for their final two Tests.

Hansen said plenty of sports science went into that process of recovery and preparation, but the use of a wider player pool had also helped.

"At the start of this tour we wouldn't have thought Rieko Ioane would have been playing in this (Paris) game, but he was exposed to something and stood up," Hansen said.

"The coaching staff have done a good job with the young guys, they've taken their time and made them understand what's required and made them comfortable."

France Rugby - France v New Zealand All Blacks - Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France, 26/11/2016. New Zealand players including Julian Savea (R) celebrate. REUTERS/Gonzalo In action: All Blacks v France, Nov 27, 2016

With players already outbound from the French capital for their summer holidays, attentions are now turn to the looming British and Irish Lions campaign next July.

Hansen predicted the touring side, led by Kiwi and Wales coach Warren Gatland, would be the strongest to tour the Shaky Isles in decades.

But first, his players would have to produce the goods at Super Rugby level.

"We know we'll have to redevelop our game a little, the important part is making sure we transition these guys back into their franchises, making sure they get a good off-season," Hansen said.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon