By Greg Stutchbury
OITA, Japan (Reuters) – While the All Blacks are expected to run up a big score against Canada in their World Cup Pool B clash in Oita on Wednesday, Steve Hansen and his coaching staff just want to make sure they are moving forward with their game.
Two-time defending champions New Zealand are expected to win the pool after beating South Africa in their first game and have planned to use the matches against Canada, Namibia and Italy to finetune their game ahead of the quarter-finals.
“We just have to keep building combinations, keep building the attacking side of our game, keep learning about the conditions, which have influenced some of the games with the humidity,” assistant coach Ian Foster said on Tuesday.
“Ideally the Canada game gives us a fantastic opportunity to grow where we’re at. But for us it’s also a test match so we want to go out and get a result and get a performance we want.”
Ideally a bonus-point victory against a side ranked 22nd in the world and who were the last to qualify for the tournament, no injuries and no-one falling foul of the disciplinary committee would be more than enough.
The match under the retractable roof at Oita Stadium, however, could see the All Blacks run up the score although lock Sam Whitelock said that was not their goal and they had to treat the game like another test match.
“As All Blacks there is no such thing as tier one or tier two (teams),” he said. “If you don’t show respect to any side then you’re going to get hurt.
“This week is one that we’re definitely looking at ourselves, trying to get better from where we were against South Africa.
“There is always something to work on.”
The All Blacks have their shortest turnaround in the tournament after the Canada game, having to travel to Tokyo for their clash with Namibia on Sunday and Hansen has recognized the need to juggle the team selections.
He made 11 changes from the starting side that beat South Africa on Sept. 21 and one player he will take note of is winger Rieko Ioane, who was dropped for the Bledisloe Cup match in Auckland in August.
George Bridge and Sevu Reece have cemented themselves as the first-choice wingers and Hansen is convinced that Ioane can return to form against Canada.
“It is difficult when you are the top dog and someone comes through … and puts you under pressure,” Hansen said of Ioane, who has scored 23 tries in 26 tests and was the World Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2017.
“I have been impressed with him. He has been working hard and is just waiting for his opportunity.
“We know that he can also play wonderful rugby. Once he does that the pressure will come back on to the selectors to pick him.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)