Hansen: All Blacks play 'as good as it gets'
Not quite the perfection they're always reaching for, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen tonight tagged his side's first-half demolition of England "as good as it gets".
The All Blacks ran in four tries - two apiece to Julian Savea and Aaron Smith - in a sensational first 40 that saw them leading the English 29-6 at the break, with the June series sweep tucked firmly in the bag.
The world champs were a little disappointed by the way they buttoned off after halftime en route to a 36-13 victory, but his side's opening piece of work had Hansen reaching for the superlatives.
"It was satisfying, but we're quite greedy up in the box and we think we let a couple go too," Hansen said. "The things we did well were things we've been working hard on: we executed our skillsets nicely, our set piece was good, our running lines were great, the catch and pass was good and we finished tries that were there to be scored.
"From that point of view it was as good as you're going to get."
Equalling the record win streak for a tier-one nation at 17 was also acknowledged by the All Blacks.
"To sit here and say we've done something two other great sides have done is pleasing, because that's what we're trying to do," said Hansen.
McCaw, though, indicated the All Blacks were not done with this streak yet. "You don't make a big deal of it but acknowledge that it's a thing you're pretty keen to try and achieve. But it would be quite nice to hold it outright and next time [in Sydney in August] we get a chance to do that:"
Hansen said Kieran Read's halftime departure was "part of the plan" and lauded the effort of blockbusting wing Julian Savea whose hat-trick brings his try tally against England to eight in four tests. "Old Jules seems to like scoring tries against them, but he benefited from a lot of good work leading into those tries."
There was some praise, too, for Cory Jane's emphatic statement performance after a couple of wobbly tests hitherto.
"He's probably been guilty of trying too hard since he came back from that ankle injury. Tonight we saw the real Cory. He's an effervescent player and when he's in that form he's a handful."
McCaw said the All Blacks ended the series in a lot better position than they started it, and it was important now to take up where they left off when they come back for the Rugby Championship.
"We've still got a fair bit of room we need to improve if we're going to play the game for the 80 minutes we're after. What's pleasing is each week we've got better and we've got to keep that attitude."
Which three first-fives would you have taken on the All Blacks' northern tour?