Rugby: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen stresses consistency ahead of second France test

It may be three years since the All Blacks have named an unchanged game-day 23 in consecutive weeks, but head coach Steve Hansen insists it’s simply par for the course.

The selectors have stuck with the same squad that demolished France in Auckland for the second test in Wellington on Saturday.

Not since the 2015 Rugby World Cup final has the matchday group been replicated from one game to the next and Hansen says it make sense to maintain a semblance of consistency within June's brief test window.

"At this time of the year, it’s the norm for us to not make many changes," Hansen told media.

"We're trying to build who we are and trying to bring together five teams into one, and again, look at our game and try to build that.

"To do those things and change the team doesn't make it easy, so we decided to go with same group."

With a long-term view to next year's World Cup defence in Japan, Hansen said establishing combinations is their immediate priority, before any experimental changes are made.

"We said early we were looking to try and build some combos,” he said.. “We've got guys playing for different franchises, and if you try chop and change every week, history will tell us that it gets sloppy.

"As the season goes on, we’ll have to takes some risks too and those risks will be about 'are those guys ready to take to the World Cup?'"

France have made a total of five changes to their first-test side, inserting players who arrived late, after taking part in the Top 14 final.

Not that Hansen is paying much attention. His focus lies first and foremost with his own charges, and the adjustments required in their approach.

The visitors matched the All Blacks blow for blow through the opening 50 minutes of the first test, before a dubious yellow-card decision derailed them. Two quick tries saw the momentum swing dramatically and the result swiftly concluded.

"Last week, it took us a while to work out we had to go through them rather than go around them," Hansen noted.

"We’ve worked out ways we can do that and looked at ways we can better identify opportunities that are given to us, and defend better than we did at times."

Hansen admitted aspects of the traditional French flair seemed to have been curtailed in favour of a slightly more structured gameplan.

But the All Blacks have never been ones to adapt to the style of others, preferring to inflict their own destructive brand of rugby on their opposition, and force them to sink or swim.

"They’ll try and slow the game down. That’s the pace they want to play at and we want to play at full bore with accuracy.

"That’s our challenge and if it comes off, it doesn’t matter who you play. You play that game well you can rip anyone apart.

“But if you don’t have accuracy with it, you can be beat too and that’s happened with us in the past.

"They’ll come with plenty to play for, and we’ll have to step it up a notch or two."


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