June 13, 2018 / 7:04 PM / 6 months ago

All Blacks unchanged as Hansen tests combinations, tactics

Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - France vs New Zealand - Stade de France, Paris, France - November 11, 2017 New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen before the match REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand coach Steve Hansen named an unchanged side for the second test against France in Wellington on Saturday as he sought to cement combinations and continue to test his players’ ability to step up to international level.

The All Blacks won the first test 52-11 last week in Auckland as Hansen’s starting side wore down France’s resistance and then exploited a dubious yellow card before the replacements ran riot in the final 20 minutes.

“As we have a big focus right now on developing our game and working on our skill sets, connections and combinations, it isn’t beneficial to be making wholesale changes, if any at all, to the playing 23,” Hansen said in a statement.

“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.”

While the All Blacks ran away with the game in the final 20 minutes, Hansen was well aware that it took time for his team to get into second gear and he is expecting them to play better from the first whistle at Wellington Regional Stadium.

“The French would’ve taken a lot of confidence out of their first 50 minutes on the weekend ... therefore, it will require us to raise our game to an even higher level,” Hansen said.

“We’ll be looking to play our own high-energy game with real intent. When it comes to our performance, we know there are high expectations from our fans.”

Team: 15-Jordie Barrett, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-Ryan Crotty, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Luke Whitelock, 7-Sam Cane, 6-Liam Squire, 5-Scott Barrett, 4-Sam Whitelock (captain), 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Joe Moody.

Replacements: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18-Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19-Vaea Fifita, 20-Ardie Savea, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Damian McKenzie, 23-Ngani Laumape

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ed Osmond/Toby Davis

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