All Blacks coach Henry eyes Grand Slam
AFP - 1 hour 1 minute ago
CARDIFF (AFP) - - New Zealand coach Graham Henry has admitted that all thoughts of his team will now turn to securing a rare Grand Slam over the four Home Nations with victory over England in Twickenham next weekend.
The All Blacks withstood a Welsh first-half frenzy before running out 29-9 winners here on Saturday, having already comfortably beaten Scotland 32-6 and Ireland 22-3.
Their win against Wales was their 91st victory in 104 games since New Zealand starting playing matches against the Home Unions in 1905. Among those games were four draws, meaning they have suffered only nine defeats - six by England and three by Wales, the last of those coming in 1953.
The All Blacks have also yet to concede a try in their bid to notch up a Grand Slam, a feat achieved only three times previously, twice by New Zealand and once by Australia.
Henry, ever a pragmatist, has continually stressed the need for his squad to take one game at a time on this taxing end-of-season tour, but after the victory in Cardiff, had things changed?
"We can start talking about the Grand Slam now it is a reality," he said with a smile.
"You don't want to get ahead of yourselves on these things. A lot of sides have done that over the years, talking about Grand Slams.
"We didn't want to get going into that situation and I think it's arrogant anyway. Now it's a reality, I think we can focus on trying to win a game next week in Twickenham for the Grand Slam."
Henry positively beamed when informed of England's record-breaking 42-6 loss to South Africa, but backed newly-installed manager Martin Johnson to bounce back.
"Goodness me," he said. "It'll be a bigger pressure on England I guess, psychologically.
"But Martin's got a lot of character, I've got a lot of time for Martin Johnson.
"He'll put his big old chin out and take it on the chin and get on with it. That's all he can do and he'll do that.
"He's done it before and been successful. It might take a little bit of time for him to get this side where he wants them to be.
"As a guy who knows him reasonably well from the Lions tour (in 2005), (I'd say) you just need to be patient."
Henry was also complimentary about a Wales side which pushed the All Blacks to the limit in the first 40 minutes before succumbing to the Kiwis' superior nous and urgency in the loose in the second-half.
"They are highly competitive, a good Welsh side who played good rugby and stretched us a lot," said Henry, who spent three-and-a-half years as Wales coach from 1998-2001.
"They'll be disappointed with the result but I think they should be proud of their advancement in the game. They're really playing well and I think they're a really good side.
"It showed a lot of heart and character from our guys to hang in there under pressure and come through in the better part of the game.
"That's been a mark of this side all year that they've been under pressure and come through and won games from being behind.
"We scored 23 points to none in the second half and that's huge."
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