Hansen gave Savea, scrum-half Aaron Smith and second-row Brodie Retallick their Test debuts, with all three more than adequately proving they could make the step up.
While Hansen praised the work of Retallick in the tight, Smith’s passing and decision making and Savea’s three tries, he reserved special congratulation for the 12 players in the starting line-up who were in the World Cup-winning squad last year. “They could have easily come in and been comfortable and all week they have displayed enthusiasm, excitement and a commitment to get the job done and they led the way. We started the week out with one purpose and to have a performance we would be proud of and we have to be proud of what we did.”
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw had warned fans the team would not be perfect in their first outing of the season, and they were far from that. There were too many dropped passes and knock-ons, some intercepted passes and a lack of accuracy and cohesion at the breakdown that produced a number of turnovers and penalties. The defensive screen that had guided them to their 8-7 World Cup final win over France last October, however, was still intact, and in fact virtually impenetrable.
Ireland’s only try came when hooker Rory Best gathered a loose ball from a charge down and, with every All Blacks player up in attack, stand-off Jonathan Sexton booted the ball down field for winger Fergus McFadden to find himself the only player within sight of it.
Ireland were keen to move the ball at pace, often running it out from deep inside their own territory. But the All Blacks kept driving them back in the tackle and, when Ireland did kick downfield, there were plenty of Kiwis to run it back at them. At pace.
Savea’s first try came from such a scenario when he was given an overlap down the left-hand touchline, while his second typified the entire match. Ireland had been attacking strongly but aggressive defence from Conrad Smith and McCaw forced a turnover and three passes and a clever kick later, the All Blacks had an attacking lineout five metres out.
From a quick ruck shortly afterwards, Savea smashed over in the tackles of prop Cian Healy and scrum-half Connor Murray.
“For a team that had not played since the World Cup final that was a good standard,” said Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll. They bring a real intensity and great tempo and try to keep the ball in play.”
Scorers: New Zealand: Tries: Savea 3, Thomson, Smith. Cons: Carter 4. Pens: Carter 3. Ireland: Try: McFadden. Con: Sexton. Pen: Sexton.
New Zealand: Dagg; Guildford, C Smith, S Williams, Savea; Carter, A Smith; Woodcock, Hore, O Franks, Retallick, S Whitelock, Vito, McCaw, Read. Subs: Elliot, B Franks, A Williams, Thomson, Weepu, Cruden, B Smith.
Ireland: Kearney; McFadden, O’Driscoll, Earls, Zebo; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Fitzpatrick, Tuohy, Ryan, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Heaslip. Subs: Cronin, Loughney, O’Callaghan, McLaughlin, Reddan, O’Gara, Cave.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).