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Tonga a key game for All Blacks

Lynn McConnell     03 Sep 2019    

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the game was a vital bridge between the respective intensities of the Investec Rugby Championship and the World Cup.

Without it, the All Blacks would be out of match play for too long.

The importance of the Tonga game was to get game time into a large proportion of the All Blacks' squad otherwise the gap would be too long between games.

"It will create a two-week window which is acceptable," he said.

Anyone who had injury issues would not be risked. Otago first five-eighths Josh Ioane was with the side as cover for Richie Mo'unga whose shoulder injury would be assessed later in the week. Hansen said centre Jack Goodhue was still having hamstring issues.

While there were risks in playing, especially with prospective injuries, and that was the same any time the side played but there was a bigger risk if they didn't play. That was not being game ready against a team that would be physical and would be game ready at the World Cup.

"The risk of getting injured comes when you don't mentally and physically prepare properly during the week and you turn up half ready and you get a team that's completely ready and up for the game so the job will be that we turn up Saturday ready to go."

Hansen said Tonga, had they held onto the ball, were in with a chance of beating Fiji in their game in Auckland at the weekend.

"They were in the game for long time periods of time but Fiji were very quick to penalise them on any turnover ball so it will be a good hit out for us," he said.

Hansen said comments made by former England five-eighths Stuart Barnes about why New Zealand were taking three open side flankers and their cynical approach to the breakdown was irrelevant, as weree the world rankings.

"We're no different to any other team at the breakdown. He's got to say something because he's got to sell his papers. Let's not get caught and buy into that.

"The rankings are a moving obstacle all the time. We know there are question marks around how they do it but it's not going to change either. It's World Rugby's problem to sort out not mine or anybody else's rather than World Rugby. They've got their hands full at the moment so I can't see them changing the world rankings system before the World Cup," Hansen said.