WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand have resisted the temptation to experiment in the second Test against France in Wellington on Saturday, keeping the line up that delivered a 52-11 thrashing last week.
Coach Steve Hansen is instead demanding the same 23 who produced an eight-tries-to-one victory in Auckland turn in an even better performance a week later. "It isn't beneficial to be making wholesale changes, if any at all, to the playing 23," Hansen said Thursday.
The All Blacks are using the three-Test series as a time to bed in a new game plan for the 2019 World Cup. "We have a big focus right now on developing our game and working on our skillsets, connections and combinations," the coach said.
While the team had played according to the script in the first Test, Hansen said it was not a perfect performance. Since winning the 2015 World Cup the All Blacks have been frustrated by opposition teams nullifying their attack with the use of a rushed defence.
To combat the close marking, the All Blacks want to step up several gears in the second half with an emphasis on speed and accuracy as they empty the bench. In the first Test in Auckland, they trailed 8-11 at half-time before cracking on 44 unanswered points in the second half.
"Whilst we were really happy with the way we finished last weekend’s Test, we’re fully aware that we still have a lot of work to do," Hansen said. "The French would've taken a lot of confidence out of their first 50 minutes on the weekend and will be coming to play on Saturday night. Therefore, it will require us to raise our game to an even higher level."
The All Blacks have marked restarts and a need to impose themselves earlier in the game as areas that need working on. Assistant coach Ian Foster praised France for the way they played and defended in for first 50 minutes "so there's still plenty for us to nail down," he said.
New Zealand team(15-1): Jordie Barrett; Ben Smith, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Luke Whitelock, Sam Cane, Liam Squire; Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock; Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Replacements: Nathan Harris, Karl Tui'inukuake, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Vaea Fifita, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, Ngani Laumape.