The record-breaking run of New Zealand came to an end with a 40-29 defeat to Ireland on November 5.
Over the weekend, the young Kiwi side bounced back with a 68-10 win over Italy. Asked what this latest generation of players could do better than those represented by Dan Carter et al, Hansen said he didn't know what they could do better but they had the opportunity because they came after them.
“We've got 18 new players after last year's World Cup in the squad and obviously that's a lot, but the group is just starting out and so far they've done well but they tasted defeat in our last game prior to here [Rome] so it will be interesting to see how they grow from that. “The expectation within the All Blacks is that the next generation is always better than the one before,” he said.
Hansen felt No.8 Steven Luatua had met the requirements the management had set for him. “He was very good tonight until he started cramping up after the 65-minute period and he became a bit of a passenger. We didn't have anyone else to put on otherwise he would have come off but it was a big improvement from Steven and he's just got to show us he can do that time after time.”
Flanker Elliot Dixon was a different proposition as he hadn't played a lot for the All Blacks. It was his third game starting or coming off the bench and Hansen felt he made good progress in Rome, he was physical and did some things nicely and there were still parts of his game that would continue to grow.
Lock Patrick Tuipulotu had come off after both his thighs cramped up and it would be a case of looking at what he and Luatua were eating before games because it wasn't fuelling their big bodies, he said. Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow had played well. Hansen said when not having a lot of games it was usual for a player to tighten up a little, but as the game progressed he had loosened up and did his core roles really well.
Hansen said: “I think our guys played particularly well and we're happy with that but the big thing for us is we have got some guys who haven't played a lot of rugby for the All Blacks the opportunity to play 80 minutes, some young guys who were having their first game to play so it bodes well for next week [Ireland]. “We've got a lot of people in form for selection but better still it bodes well for the future next year and beyond because we've now given some more players more experience,” he said.
Assistant coach Ian Foster said he was pleased with wing Rieko Ioane's debut. He was a young player who was learning all the time, but he had shown good physicality with the ball in hand and overall he was really satisfied with his game.
Aaron Cruden, who was named man of the match, hadn't played a lot of rugby and the first thing the management wanted from him was more match time, secondly to do his core roles really well - his passing, kicking, running and organising and get back into the flow of rugby not having played for so long.
“As the game went on he got better and better, and we're pretty happy with where he ended up,” Hansen said.
Stand-in captain Sam Cane said from a leadership point of view he had learned, from four years playing in Richie McCaw's shadow that there was no point trying to be McCaw, it was better to concentrate on being himself, to play his style and to be Sam Cane.
Foster thought the All Blacks dealt with the 'predictability' about their play by saying he thought they had more opportunity to make different decisions against Italy. “Last week we didn't get a lot of opportunity in the first 30 minutes and that set the tone for the game whereas today we had a lot more opportunity to try some different things,” he said.
African News Agency (ANA)
Original source: Future looking bright for All Blacks