Rugby World Cup 2011

Henry: All Blacks on track

2011-09-16 16:34
Graham Henry (AFP Photo)

Hamilton - New Zealand coach Graham Henry said the All Blacks had dragged their World Cup campaign back on track Friday after their ruthless 83-7 demolition of Japan.

The former schoolmaster gave his injury-affected side eight marks out of 10 for the 13-try display and said the hosts were vastly improved from last week's nervy opening win against Tonga.

"I think we were better than last week, which was pleasing," said Henry.

"We improved our structure and we had players in the right positions most of the time. We didn't try to push the game too much... I thought we put our game together better than we did last week."

The All Blacks were missing the backbone of their team -- captain Richie McCaw, number eight Kieran Read, fly-half Dan Carter and fullback Mils Muliaina, all through injury -- but did not skip a beat at Waikato Stadium.

Conrad Smith kicked off the rout in just the fourth minute as 11 different scorers crossed for tries and stand-in fly-half Colin Slade recovered from an early wobble to kick nine conversions.

Substitute Sonny Bill Williams scored his first two All Blacks tries in his maiden outing on the right wing, while Richard Kahui also claimed a double from the other flank.

Henry said the overall performance was "pleasing" as New Zealand head into next week's clash with France, their nemesis in two previous World Cups.

"We're probably where we need to be," Henry said. "Obviously there's a few guys who need a run because they couldn't play today. That's a bit of a concern but you can't control those things. It's just the reality of the situation.

"We just want to get better each game and I think we got better."

Last week's 45-10 win -- when Tonga frustrated the All Blacks on the tournament's opening night -- was poorly received by a wary New Zealand public acutely aware of past failures on the sport's biggest stage.

Henry is under vast pressure to deliver New Zealand's first World Cup in 24 years after presiding over the disaster of 2007, when the All Blacks were shocked in the quarter-finals by France.


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