Rugby World Cup 2015

Kiwis get out of tight spot

Georgia's full-back Beka Tsiklauri (left) can't be caught as he scores his team's first try against New Zealand. Georgia exposed some shortcomings in the defending champions and a win in their next game against Namibia will earn the Europeans a slot
Georgia's full-back Beka Tsiklauri (left) can't be caught as he scores his team's first try against New Zealand. Georgia exposed some shortcomings in the defending champions and a win in their next game against Namibia will earn the Europeans a slot in the 2019 World Cup.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hansen's men win but struggle against Georgia, giving hope to their q-final rivals

LONDON • New Zealand gave themselves many questions to answer after their Rugby World Cup match against Georgia turned into a tight battle that highlighted deficiencies to potential quarter-final rivals.

The defending champions ran out 43-10 winners at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Friday, scoring seven tries to nab a bonus point and become the second side to book their place in the last eight.

But the victory did not come easily for the strongest All Blacks side coach Steve Hansen could have lined up, featuring household names such as captain Richie McCaw, playmaker Dan Carter and centre Sonny Bill Williams.

Such are the high standards that New Zealand normally offer that the 33-point advantage over the Georgians will surely be dissected as not sufficient.

There was a general lack of cutting edge and precision, an unusually high level of handling errors and a shaky scrum.

Georgia were happy to dictate the rhythm for large periods to better suit their abrasive, rumbling pack.

"There's a lot of things we could have done better. Our skill execution at times was not great," Hansen noted.

McCaw insisted that there were no longer any easy games in the World Cup.

"For a lot of the game, especially up front and defensively, we took a step up," he said.

"If you look at the game as a whole, it's a little bit disappointing some of the errors we made but that's an easy thing to fix."

Georgia coach Milton Haig, a New Zealander, picked the east European nation's most experienced side ever but one who will likely feature 10 changes for their final crunch game against Namibia.

Victory in that game in Exeter on Wednesday would guarantee Georgia third place in Pool C - and automatic qualifying spot for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

But there was no shortage of Georgian pride on show in Cardiff.

In the face of their fiercely competitive scrum and hard-hitting defence, New Zealand did at times look shaken.

The All Blacks, having already beaten closest rivals Argentina 26-16 and Namibia 58-14, dominated possession and territory.

But their attack was ridden with errors, scrum-half Aaron Smith uncharacteristically failing to find his target on numerous occasions, several final passes going to ground or bypassing the intended receiver to go straight into touch and Carter even misfiring from fly-half.

What will have Hansen most concerned is the struggle his team had against a Georgian front five.

"The scrum was difficult, the Georgians scrummed well and they were trying to shear across and we had to keep their tighthead square and we found that difficult but finally worked our way through it," the coach noted.

New Zealand now turn their attention to their final match against Tonga on Friday at Newcastle's St James' Park.

They will hope to rediscover their mojo before moving on to the quarter-finals where they will play France, Ireland or Italy.

"I wouldn't say our game was great but it doesn't have to be at the moment," said a bullish Hansen.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RUGBY WORLD CUP
Pool C, Argentina v Tonga: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 9.15pm
Pool D, Ireland v Italy: 11.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'KIWIS GET OUT OF TIGHT SPOT'. Print Edition | Subscribe