Hansen happy with positive start to new All Blacks era
Nursing a cup of coffee and looking like a man who had not had much sleep after conducting two post-match analyses, Steve Hansen woke to the first day of a new era in All Blacks rugby on Sunday.
At Eden Park on Saturday, his team had dispatched Ireland 42-10 in the first of three tests, with debutant winger Julian Savea scoring a hat-trick of tries as the experienced spine of the team gave the big Wellingtonian plenty of space to exploit.
Hansen, who stepped into the job after eight years as Graham Henry’s assistant, was keen to reiterate it was a good first step as he built a team capable of defending the Webb Ellis trophy in 2015.
“What we were looking for was really good attitude and trying to establish some patterns we had been working on,” Hansen told reporters at the team hotel of the first test win.
“You also expect your team to take a bit of a while to gel... and they gelled pretty quickly to be fair.
“So I’m very happy.”
Much had been made of the need to leave last year’s World Cup triumph in the past as the All Blacks focus on staying at the summit of world rugby, something not easily achieved by previous champions the year after lifting the game’s ultimate prize.
Hansen had said after the match on Saturday he had been pleased with the way his experienced players took on that responsibility, though the 8-7 victory over France to win the World Cup last October had alleviated a lot of pressure.
“It was a pretty big monkey that has been around this country for a long time,” Hansen said of the World Cup hoodoo that had haunted the rugby-mad country for 24 years.
“I think we’re all feeling a little bit more relaxed. This is just a different era and we’re starting again.”
Hansen had only one real injury concern after the first test, with loose forward Victor Vito receiving a bad cut above his eyes, though he had also sustained a knee ligament strain and would need to be monitored over the next 48 hours.
Keven Mealamu’s calf injury would also be monitored and while Hansen said he felt the hooker could probably play in the second test in Christchurch on June 16 they were taking a conservative approach to his return.
The former policeman said he doubted there would be too many other changes the second test, though a victory at Rugby League Park may see a few changes for the final test in Hamilton on June 23.
"I don’t think there will be too many (changes in Christchurch).
“The first two tests are about establishing ourselves and if we have the opportunity or the breathing space then we may make one or two changes (in Hamilton).
“It would be nice to give a couple of other young players into test rugby whether it’s off the bench or starting.”