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By Patrick McKendry in Oita City
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, satisfied with his side’s 63-0 World Cup victory over Canada, has described loosehead prop Atu Moli’s 80-minute shift in the oppressive humidity inside Oita Stadium as a “coming of age” performance.
Hansen revealed he deliberately replaced tighthead prop Angus Ta’avao after 25 minutes in order to save him for the next test against Namibia in Tokyo on Saturday. His replacement, Nepo Laulala, played 26 minutes, with Ofa Tuungafasi then coming on and playing the remaining 30.
That left the 24-year-old Moli playing 80 minutes in a match for the first time since high school, a remarkable effort given the conditions.
“The coaches just said ‘go until you’re knackered’. So I went and I think I was knackered at halftime,” Moli said. “I don’t know where the other energy came from.”
Asked whether he got much acknowledgement from Hansen afterwards, Moli said: “I looked at him and he gave me a wink, that’s all I got from him. He won’t give you too much but all you have to do is get your head down and keep working.”
Hansen was far more effusive in his praise of Moli in front of the media.
“It was planned,” Hansen said of Ta’avao’s departure. “We wanted Atu to play the 80 minutes. We wanted to keep the other guys fresh because they have to play in four days’ time.
“We’re really pleased with Atu, he’s come a long way in a very short period. Today I think he came of age, so very happy with him. He should be proud of himself. To play 80 minutes, he proved a point to himself
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