New Zealand 8-7 France, Rugby World Cup, October 23, 2011
Hansen lauds All Blacks' resolve
October 23, 2011
New Zealand's players celebrate their victory at the full-time whistle © Getty Images
Stephen Donald Thierry Dusautoir Steve Hansen Sir Graham Henry Marc Lievremont Wayne Smith Tony Woodcock
Steve Hansen saluted the All Blacks' heart and mental strength after Sunday's nail-biting 8-7 victory over France in an epic Rugby World Cup final clash in Auckland.
New Zealand had been expected to have little trouble in disposing of a French side which they had already beaten comfortably in the pool stages and that had only scraped into the tournament decider on the back of a scarcely deserved 9-8 win over 14-man Wales last weekend.
However, despite racking up an early unconverted try through Tony Woodcock, the Kiwis struggled to subdue a France side clearly intent on silencing their critics. The hosts' cause was hardly aided by the loss of Aaron Cruden to injury during the opening period - the third No.10 that the All Blacks had lost over the course of the tournament following the withdrawals of Dan Carter and Colin Slade - but his replacement, Stephen Donald, slotted a penalty early in the second half to put eight points between the sides.
France came storming back, though, with a try from captain Thierry Dusautoir which was converted by Francois Trinh-Duc and only a terrific rearguard action denied Les Bleus what would have been the most sensational of victories.
Hansen admitted that New Zealand had been somewhat fortunate but felt that the lessons learned in defeat by France in the quarter-finals four years ago had proven decisive.
"The mental side of our team has grown considerably since 2007," he said. "We have won a couple of games like that that have been really tight.
"Tonight, we knew the French would play as they did and they were outstanding. But the pleasing thing was we showed a lot of ticker but we also showed a lot of belief in not only ourselves but the guy that was standing alongside you.
"That belief is bone-deep within this group. When it is bone-deep you can achieve things like we did tonight. Probably in other cases the score might have gone the other way. But because this group of men believe in each other and themselves that well, they hung in there and hung in there and it rubs off on other people."
Meanwhile, Hansen's colleague Wayne Smith was also full of praise for the way in which the Kiwis had maintained their composure in such a high-pressure scenario.
"We played a lot of great rugby over the last eight years and sometimes it just comes down to what you have got under the fern and what you have got in the top two inches," he said. "They showed that character and ability to get up and make another tackle. I just feel so privileged to be part of this."
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