Friendlies ideal for All Blacks: Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says his side’s three-way friendly wins over Northland and Counties Manukau were the perfect preparation for next week’s Rugby Championship match against Australia.

New Zealand crushed provincial championship side Northland 73-0 in a 40-minute match before overcoming a 7-0 deficit against Counties to grab a 35-7 win.

Hansen said his side was scrappy at times, particularly in the opening stages of their half-match against Counties.

But overall he was pleased with the hit-out.

“The boys played well and put some things together, and in the second half Counties came on and put us under a little bit of pressure,” Hansen told reporters.

“We had to deal with a few things, but it was an ideal preparation.”

The All Blacks ran in 11 unanswered tries, including one by besieged winger Julian Savea, against a poor Northland outfit before facing a bigger hurdle against Counties.

Counties openside flanker Fotu Lokotui gave his side an early lead when he barged his way over from a yard out in the fourth minute.

However the All Blacks’ class eventually prevailed, levelling the tie through an Israel Dagg try in the 18th minute and taking the lead in the 24th minute through captain Kieran Read.

A second try to Dagg and tries to Waisake Naholo and Patrick Tuipulotu rounded off the affair.

Read said he was glad Counties gave his side, who fly to Sydney on Sunday, a genuine test.

The All Blacks would need to put in extra defensive work before next Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener with the Wallabies.

“We expected that, we have over the last few years when we’ve played these games,” Read said.

“I don’t think we got too much of our structure, just because of the nature of the game, and certainly there’s a few things we can work on, especially on the defensive side around the ruck.”

Counties had earlier outclassed Northland 24-5.

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