Much to ponder for Hansen after All Blacks' defeat
The All Blacks' end-of-season tour has taken on added significance for coach Steve Hansen's planning for the 2019 World Cup, after the world champions lost 23-18 to Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.
Today, Hansen will name an extended 37-man squad for next month's five-match tour, which includes Tests against France, Scotland and Wales and games against the invitational Barbarians and a French Selection side.
While Hansen had arguably his strongest side available on Saturday, he was missing six first-choice players and the two extra games on tour will allow him to look at fringe players as he builds depth for the World Cup in Japan.
"We will be taking a decent-sized squad and be looking to be smart about how we prepare," Hansen said.
"It will require quite a bit of work from the staff and some good planning, a lot of which we have done already. As long as we are flexible in our thinking, we should be fine."
The tour should also allow Hansen to evaluate how the team are going to dominate games in two years' time, given that the loss also highlighted some of their weaknesses.
Their attack did not flow, with fly-half Lima Sopoaga struggling to take control of the match, while the Wallabies' desperate defence harried the All Blacks into making errors.
The Wallabies also stopped the All Blacks forward momentum by smashing into tackles and at the breakdown.
The defeat also ended what has been an enigmatic and frustrating international programme for the team.
On three occasions - the 30-15 first test win over the Lions, the first 50 minutes of their opening Rugby Championship clash with the Wallabies when they raced to a 54-6 lead and a 57-0 demolition of South Africa last month - they showed when they get it right, no team can stay with them.
They were unable, however, to maintain that consistency throughout the year, and more importantly from week to week, which could be crucial in Japan.
Meanwhile, Australia coach Michael Cheika is determined that the Wallabies do not get carried away by their win, which snapped a seven-game losing streak against the All Blacks going back to the 2015 World Cup final.
He said: "I'm very realistic, it's one win, it was hard-earned. We'll enjoy it for what it is, and then continue on with what we've got to do." - REUTERS