All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says the poor quality of the Stade de France surface turned the scrum battle against France into a lottery.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says the poor quality of the Stade de France surface turned Saturday's scrum battle against France into a lottery.
Not for the first time, the turf rolled up like a carpet under pressure after a week of intermittent rain, leaving both teams to struggle to gain stable ball at scrum time.
France skipper Thierry Dusautior said his team had the upper hand at scrum time, which was why he opted for a series of set pieces in the dying minutes when the hosts were pushing for a draw.
Hansen didn't agree, arguing that the set piece battle was even on a surface that wasn't conducive.
“It's frustrating when you're trying to scrum and the ground rolls up like a carpet,” said Hansen.
“This is a magnificent stadium, probably one of the best in the world, but the ground let it down today.”
Captain Richie McCaw said the players had been frustrated by their inability to really let loose against an effective French team that attacked them at will and regularly broke the gainline.
The All Blacks made the difference in the first 20 minutes of the second half when tries from Charles Piutau and Kieran Read, thanks to an ingenious pass from Piutau, opened up a 14-point lead before Brice Dulin's score set up a nervy finale.
“Probably the one thing was the set piece, especially the scrum. At times under foot it didn't help,” said McCaw.
“We were just frustrated we made mistakes at critical times and ended up on defence when we had the chance to put pressure on.
“It's easy to get frustrated by mistakes made but you can't change that, you've got to get on and deal with what's next.
“At the end we were defending because of poor skill execution.”
But he paid tribute to the French for nullifying their attacking game.
“They were pretty good at reading and getting up and stopping our plays,” he added.
“We had numbers but they spot tackled, they were pretty effective, you've got to give them credit for picking that.”
Hansen said his side had learnt from last year's mistakes ahead of their much-anticipated rematch with England at Twickenham next week.
New Zealand's win in Paris meant they held on to take their perfect record this year to 12 wins. It was a similar case last year before they went to Twickenham with a 100 percent record only to lose 38-21 to inspired hosts.
At the time Hansen suggested they were drained at the end of a long hard season but this time he has guarded against it.
“We made a change before we played Australia after the Argentina and South Africa league matches in the Rugby Championship,” he said.
“That change was to have more time at home, it left us in a lot better physical and mental shape. And we're hoping we don't get a virus again.
“There's a real edge going back to Twickenham, they're going well, we're going ok. Both teams are looking forward to playing there.
“I hear that already they're talking about scoring four tries and going to number two in the world, so obviously they've got a lot of confidence.”