The All Blacks were in simmer mode through the pool phase of the Rugby World Cup before coming to the boil against France, says Dan Carter.
The classy five-eighth was back close to his play-making best in the world champions’ 62-13 thumping of France in Cardiff on Saturday (Sunday AEDT), scoring 17 points and steering his team around the park in a sumptuous display.
The 33-year-old great was one of several players who were below their best during the first four games of the tournament, notching relatively unconvincing wins over Argentina, Namibia, Georgia and Tonga.
He says he always knew their best was still to come.
“It’s been building, there’s a lot of self-confidence in this side,” he said.
“Even though we weren’t getting the perfect performances up until now, we knew that we were building. If we got it all together, we knew what we were capable of.
“The passes stuck and when the forwards turn up like they did tonight, then it gives the backs a lot of confidence. And the finishers that we’ve got out wide, they showed their traits tonight.”
Carter kicked eight of 10 shots at goal in the nine-try performance.
Just as pleasing to him was their defence, with the All Blacks allowing the French little breathing space.
France managed to cross once for just the fourth try New Zealand have conceded at the tournament.
Carter says defence was at the heart of several of their own tries on Saturday.
“It’s a lot about attitude and the guys were up for this one,” he said.
“It’s not always about being technically correct. Having the desire there is the most important thing.
“The guys were willing to get up and put their heads in some pretty dark places and it put France under pressure and they couldn’t get their game to flow.”