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All Blacks expect another bruising encounter

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Lynn McConnell     12 Jun 2018     Getty Images

Wing Ben Smith said on Tuesday: ""We definitely knew we were in a Test match on Saturday night and there were a few sore bodies on Sunday. It was a pretty physical game and we saw that from the wear and tear of some of those impacts."

Back on the wing in order to accommodate the skills of Jordie Barrett at fullback, Smith said: "It doesn't really worry me if I am playing fullback or on the wing. The way the game is being played now there are certain times in the game where you end up in a few of those positions anyway. I enjoyed getting out on the wing and working alongside Jordie [Barrett] and Rieko [Ioane] to do our bit for the team."

The nature of the first half of the Test had put some pressure on the home side who went to the break down 8-11. But the communication lines to leader Sam Whitelock had been working.

Smith said organisationally the All Blacks' unit did problem solving on the run during games. If there was a chance to get together and talk during the first half they would do that with Smith offering his view of what he was seeing and where space might be available.

That was supplemented at halftime by the view the coaches had from their vantage point.

He added that while they did their research before games they had some preparedness to which they could add their observations during games.

Asked whether he felt the second half yellow card against France had been crucial to the All Blacks' taking the win Smith said they had faith in their plan.

"It's a hard question to answer but I would have backed us with the way we were tracking that those opportunities would have opened up no matter what the situation was," he said.

The French would have gone away and worked on the positives they took out of the first half in Auckland and for that reason the game in Wellington would be a whole different game and they would be expecting a lot more passion, he said.

Lock Scott Barrett said the big, ball-carrying French forwards had been 'pretty confrontational' and he felt the after-effects the next morning.

He said he was happy with how he played. It hadn't been a complete performance and there were still things he wanted to work on. The All Blacks were working on their technical play, especially around the tackle.

"Fifty percent of the game is defence so we put a lot of time into that tackle and getting that right." It was something he had been working on because coach Steve Hansen said it was an aspect of his game he needed to put some time into.

They had a good lineout plan going into the game, and while not giving anything away about their approach, he said it was a little like chess. It was a big part of defence and it created a lot of opportunities for attack.

"If we can pinch the ball as many times as we can it goes a long way to helping our chances at winning," he said.

The need for combinations with those around him was just as important as for backs. It was also like the tackle where you backed your initial instincts and thought process.