OITA, Japan (Reuters) - New Zealand coach Steve Hansen heads into the short turnaround for their third World Cup Pool B match against Namibia on Sunday relatively comfortable that his side are building towards the knockout stages of the tournament.
The All Blacks ran riot under the roof at Oita Stadium on Wednesday with a bonus-point victory over Canada, seven of their nine tries coming in spells of 16 minutes in the first half and 10 in the second.
The 63-0 scoreline, however, could have been much higher had they not wasted several other opportunities with poor handling or rushed decision making, although the humid conditions contributed to some of their 24 turnovers.
Canada also refused to lie down despite the pace of the game showing on many of their players by the end of the match.
“Everybody left everything on the pitch,” Canada loose forward Matt Heaton said. “A lot of sore bodies. A lot of tired bodies. That’s probably the fastest game most of us have ever played in.”
Canada did manage to slow the All Blacks tempo down at times, something sides like South Africa, Ireland, Wales and England will be able to do more successfully should they meet in the knockout phases.
Hansen would also be acutely aware that against the tier one nations his side are unlikely to have 70% territory and 64% possession and would need to make more than 91 tackles when the tournament tightens.
The victory also allowed him to test combinations and get a look at players who have struggled for game time or were returning from injury, like centre Jack Goodhue, while he also juggled the workload, especially in the front row.
Loosehead prop Atu Moli played the full 80 minutes, while he used all three of his other props — starter Angus Ta’avao and replacements Nepo Laulala and Ofa Tuungafasi — to rotate through the tighthead side of the scrum.
“We wanted Atu to play 80 minutes and keep the other guys fresh because they have to play in four days time,” Hansen said of the Namibia game in Tokyo.
Hansen, however, refused to confirm whether injured lock Brodie Retallick had recovered enough from a dislocated shoulder sustained against South Africa in July to be considered for the match.
The fact Patrick Tuipulotu played 70 minutes and Scott Barrett the full game on Wednesday, however, could suggest Retallick was close to a return.
The 2014 Player of the Year would boost the side even further as they look to their final pool game against Italy on Oct. 12 and Canada captain Tyler Ardron felt they would be tough to stop.
“I think they’re as good as ever,” Ardron said. “I give them every shot to win this tournament.
“They were impressive. I think they’re still trying to find a few combinations and work some things out but ... they’re going to be pretty hard to beat.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ed Osmond