A Jordie Barrett charge down may have been the biggest blunder in New Zealand’s emphatic win over Japan at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, but head coach Steve Hansen wasn’t about to lay the blame on his fullback’s shoulder.
Hansen felt the fault lay with another player, namely his captain Luke Whitelock.
Today was the first time Whitelock captained the side in a Test match, becoming the 70th All Blacks Test captain.
When asked about the charge down on Barrett, Hansen was quick to point towards the man sitting to his left.
“The charge down wasn’t really his [Barrett’s] fault. If you go back and look at the clips, there should have been someone blocking, and he’s not too far away from me at the moment so,” said Hansen alongside a sheepish but smiling Whitelock.
“So everyone has to do their job, when it comes to kicking out of your twenty-two. If someone doesn’t, then someone else looks bad.
“Going back to your question, Jordie handled it pretty good. He’s still learning, he’s young…he’s what, twenty-one. He’s definitely not a finished product. When we get him there he’s going to be okay.”
Whitelock had captained the All Blacks against the France XV last year. He made his Test debut against Japan in 2013 and follows in the footsteps of brother Samuel, who captained the All Blacks for the first time last year.
This is the fourth time New Zealand and Japan have played since 1995, with the most recent match before today coming in November 2013 in Tokyo. The All Blacks also played two non-Tests against the Brave Blossoms in 1987.
As well as Luke Whitelock, Dane Coles also played the 2013 Test against Japan in what was his fourth Test start.
The match was played at Tokyo’s 49,000 capacity Ajinomoto Stadium, one of the key venues for next year’s Rugby World Cup. The opening ceremony and eight matches will be played there, including the All Blacks’ Pool match against Namibia.
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