Super 14 Rugby

Henry pleased with form improvements


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All Blacks coach Graham Henry says that he is relieved that the Super 14 has seen an increase in quality for rugby after enduring six weeks of what he described as shapeless rugby.

The selection process has crystallised in recent weeks for Henry and his assistant coaches Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen, with the standard of play having improved considerably in the eyes of the New Zealand national coach who was reappointed after the world Cup flop.

A smile adorned his face after last Friday’s final-round match between the Blues and Hurricanes in Auckland, which he described as “like a Test match”.

Henry was also taken by the Crusaders-Blues match three weeks earlier, which was a world apart from the early-season form when teams struggled to come to terms with the Experimental Law Variations.

“The game has a lot more shape now than it initially had,” Henry told NineMsn.

“We were worried about the amount of turnover ball we saw, teams were going backwards and forwards without any sort of structure. We didn’t see any territorial pressure and continuity.”

The area of the game where the leading teams had improved most was at the tackle, where they had learned to retain possession.

“Teams are making sure they look after the ball there and are building pressure through continuity,” Henry said.

“The referees are also refereeing that part of the game a lot better than they were six weeks or two months ago.”

Henry added that he felt that the high standard of rugby would continue in the first Super 14 semi-final between the Crusaders and Hurricanes in Christchurch as players use the opportunity to force their way into the All Blacks squad to face Ireland and England in June.

“It’s huge. It’s the two strongest New Zealand sides as far as where they got to on the table so it it’s like a Test trial I guess, which is good for us,” he said.

“There’s no doubt this game will be helpful, hopefully to reinforce what we’re thinking.”

He also said that he had watched the truckload of rugby in order to settle on Test selections and that the “vast majority” of his squad had been decided on.

“But nothing’s in concrete.”

Henry’s squad will be named on June 1, a day after the Super 14 final and six days out from the Ireland test at Wellington.

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