Prolific Piutau steals the show
Prolific Piutau steals the showSHARE
All Black wing Charles Piutau announced himself on the international stage in the 26-19 victory over France in Paris on Saturday.
The 22-year-old, in just his third Test start, stole the show as he crossed the whitewash and went on to create the match-winning try with a spectacular offload to Kieran Read.
"It was instinct," Piutau said of throwing the behind-the-back flick.
"I saw an opportunity. What was going through my head was that I hoped he [Read] was catching it and it wasn't an intercept."
All Black coach Steve Hansen lauded Piutau’s maturity for a player with just nine Test matches under the belt and praised the Blues utility back’s athleticism.
"To score the try he did showed a lot of pace and to set up the try for Kieran showed a lot of skill and flair. He's got a lovely mixture of both," Hansen said.
Hansen felt the hard-fought win was just what his charges needed ahead of their much-anticipated clash with England next weekend.
"We had to show some real resilience, some composure, patience and at times deal with their frustrations. We had to take the win, we weren't given a win and we had to fight hard for it. It was pleasing to see that they did that," he said.
Hansen said what was disappointing was the condition of the Stade de France pitch, which he blamed for ruining the scrum contest.
"It's frustrating when you're trying to scrum and the ground rolls up like a carpet," Hansen said.
"This is a magnificent stadium, probably one of the best in the world, but the ground let it down today."
Captain Richie McCaw said the forwards were frustrated by the surface and felt they were their own worst enemy as they made to many mistakes.
"Probably the one thing was the set-piece, especially the scrum. At times under foot it didn't help," McCaw said.
"We were just frustrated we made mistakes at critical times and ended up on defence when we had the chance to put pressure on.
"It's easy to get frustrated by mistakes made but you can't change that, you've got to get on and deal with what's next.
"At the end we were defending because of poor skill execution."
McCaw took nothing away from the French, however, saying, "They were pretty good at reading and getting up and stopping our plays.
"We had numbers but they spot tackled, they were pretty effective, you've got to give them credit for picking that."
The All Blacks now turn their attention to England, who famously upset the New Zealanders 38-21 in last year’s corresponding fixture.
Hansen insisted they learnt valuable lessons from the defeat, most importantly how to manage the squad and prepare for the encounter to fight the fatigue of a long season.
"We made a change before we played Australia after the Argentina and South Africa league matches in the Rugby Championship," Hansen said.
"That change was to have more time at home, it left us in a lot better physical and mental shape and we're hoping we don't get a virus again.
"There's a real edge going back to Twickenham, they're going well, we're going okay. Both teams are looking forward to playing there.
"I hear that already they're talking about scoring four tries and going to number two in the world, so obviously they've got a lot of confidence."