Winners might be grinners, but a stern Steve Hansen gave his All Blacks a mixed review for their patchy 54-6 victory over Japan.
The coach highlighted the positives out of an historic week when the All Blacks played their first official test in Japan, but there were clearly some things he was not happy about in the eight-tries-to-nil victory.
"It was a very good game for us in a number of ways," Hansen said.
"We got new people on the track and gave them the experience of what it's like to be an All Black, we got Richie [McCaw] and Dan [Carter] back on the track so they had some time, and a group of guys who range from about four to 30 tests had an experience where they had to lead the week and had to mentally to get up for an opposition we knew, with the greatest of respect, we'd beat.
"There were some great lessons there because some did and some didn't manage to do that."
Asked if he was disappointed in some of his players, Hansen replied: "Some of them, yeah."
But he was not keen to elaborate beyond that. "They will find out," he added.
"They weren't that bad, but at the same time if we're to be the team we want to be, then we have to learn those lessons and we have to have honest performance assessments."
In some ways the patchiness was to be expected, with wing Frank Halai and lock Dom Bird making their debuts in a heavily rejigged starting XV, with Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Luke Whitelock doing likewise off the bench.
"We scored some great tries when we stuck to the systems we wanted to play," added Hansen.
"But we got caught out occasionally trying to play their game. They play it a lot better than we do, it's a helter-skelter game, and Japan should be credited because they never gave up. They wanted to play at pace that really only they can play at, and they did that really well."
The scrum also had more than a few anxious moments, and one tighthead. "It was messy at times," said the coach. "We'll have a meeting on Tuesday and hopefully be able to sort it out there."
But Hansen did find one positive. He was rapt his team kept Japan tryless, ending a run of 52 straight games where they have crossed the line.
"That shows the attitude was right, now we've just got to grow those young men and get them better at preparing and better at performing in the game."
The coach also praised both of his starting debutants, saying Halai "did some really nice things" and saying he was happy with Bird's efforts in his core roles, especially considering his lack of recent football.
Attention now turns to France, with the team on the plane today to join their early arriving team-mates in Paris.
"Next week will be a hell of a match and it won't take much to turn the screws a bit on that," said McCaw.
"I think all the boys are very excited about what lies ahead. You do it one at a time but it's a big challenge over the next three weeks."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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