Ben Smith Rugby World Cup: New All Blacks wings change the picture for Steve Hansen

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Ben Smith Young wings Sevu Reece and George Bridge made every post a winner at Eden Park last Saturday night.

ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Young wings Sevu Reece and George Bridge made every post a winner at Eden Park last Saturday night.

OPINION:Hands up if at season start you had Rieko Ioane sweating on a starting spot for the Rugby World Cup? Leave your digits up if you thought Ben Smith could end up on the outer too. Surely only Nostradamus is left.

Saturday’s Bledisloe bounceback at Eden Park, where the All Blacks produced their best performance in a year in dismantling the Wallabies 36-0, answered a lot of questions about Hansen’s team a month out from the World Cup kickoff. Most import of all was that, yes, they can still play some scintillating footy.

As Hansen himself noted in the aftermath it eased a few anxieties, mostly externally. (All Blacks, of course, never doubt themselves, even though there had been plenty of admissions of shortcomings all last week.)

“Everyone externally was starting to get a bit shaky, starting to question whether the coaches still had it, whether the players still had it,” said the Big Bear. “The external group of our nation can now breathe slightly easier and we can all carry on working away to what we’re trying to work to.”

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For the record, Hansen gets the fretting. It’s because people care. He wouldn’t have it any other way either.

“People externally have less of an idea of what it takes to build your team and momentum,” he said. “They expect you to start your season, bang, like that. Super Rugby teams get three months to get ready for their first game, so five days is not enough time.

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