AUCKLAND — New Zealand coach Steve Hansen’s gamble on naming three debutants paid dividends Saturday as Julian Savea scored three tries to propel the All Blacks past Ireland 42-10 at Eden Park.
Hansen, after eight years as an assistant to World Cup winning coach Graham Henry, has stepped into arguably the most scrutinized rugby job in the world with a brief to balance the All Blacks’ high standards and build a side capable of defending the Webb Ellis trophy in 2015.
The former police officer gave Savea, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and lock Brodie Retallick their test debuts, with all three proving more than adequately they could make the step up to internationals from Super Rugby.
While Hansen praised the work of Retallick in the tight, Smith’s passing and decision making and Savea’s three tries, he reserved special praise for the 12 players in the starting lineup who were in the World Cup winning squad last year.
In Durban, second-half tries by Morne Steyn and new captain Jean de Villiers broke open an attritional match to give South Africa a 22-17 win over England at Kings Park.
Steyn squeezed over early in the second half to put the Springboks ahead 11-6, their first lead of the match.
De Villiers finished an overlap in the same right corner 12 minutes later to send South Africa to victory in its opening test under coach Heyneke Meyer.
England led 3-0 and 6-3 early on in Durban through flyhalf Owen Farrell, but South Africa’s powerful ball-carriers wore down a brave defense in the second to hand Stuart Lancaster his second defeat in six tests in charge.
England wing Ben Foden scored in the final act with the result already settled, as South Africa’s dominance for most of the second 40 proved decisive in the first of a three-test series.
In Brisbane, Will Genia scored a try, created another and inspired the Wallabies to a 27-19 win over Six Nations champion Wales Saturday, only four days after a shock loss to Scotland.
The Australians scored three tries and conceded one, with Leigh Halfpenny contributing 14 points for the Welsh via place kicks.
Australia opened a 14-point lead in the second half when Genia crossed for a solo try and Berrick Barnes landed a dropped goal to extend a 10-3 halftime lead into 20-6 margin.
But Wales got back within a point via an Alex Cuthbert try and some accurate kicking from Halfpenny.
Genia sent Pat McCabe in for a try in the 67th minute to give Australia the decisive break. The Australians have not lost at home to Wales since 1969. — Reuters