London - The All Blacks have "plenty of room" for
improvement and have not reached their potential, coach Steve Hansen said on
Tuesday ahead of a three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
Hansen told The Times the squad were breaking in new players
and re-establishing themselves after the loss of stars such as Dan Carter.
"I am very happy with where we got to at the end of
2016," said Hansen.
"Has it reached its potential? I don't think so. I
still think there is plenty of room for us to improve.
"Clearly we lost a lot of experience and leadership
after the World Cup in 2015 so last year was about re-establishing ourselves
and putting a marker back in the ground about how we want to be and I see this
year as a continuation of that," said Hansen.
He dismissed fears that flyhalf and rugby world player of
the year Beauden Barrett may not measure up to the Lions' kickers.
"I don't think we've lost a Test match through his
goalkicking," said Hansen.
"People are panicking because he's not goalkicking for
"I don't care (that he isn't the Hurricanes' first
choice kicker). I know he can mentally cope with the task of goalkicking in the
"As long as he is doing his training and going through
his skill acquisition of goalkicking through the week, then it doesn't worry me
if he is goalkicking on Saturday or not."
The Lions, whose only Test series victory in New Zealand was
in 1971, arrive on Wednesday at the start of a nearly six-week tour.