All Blacks get positive start to tour

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Lynn McConnell     28 Oct 2018     Getty Images

At the same there was a measure of how far rugby has moved in regard to player safety that the yellow card issued to Australian replacement hooker Tolu Latu for retaliating to a shove from All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor in Saturday's 37-20 win in Yokohama resulted in no controversy in the game's aftermath.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Latu's striking out and hitting Taylor in the face left referee Roman Poite with no other option but to issue a yellow card.

"You not allowed to strike someone in the face so it was pretty dumb too wasn't it?" Hansen said.

"You do dumb things you get dumb reactions and the referee had no other option by the law. If he hadn't done it, he probably would have got tuned up by his bosses. He's just done what the law says he should do and gave the guy 10 minutes.

"Sport brings out moments where you over-react and I think their young hooker over-reacted to something. To be honest Codie did too, but thankfully he didn't hit him in the head, he pushed him on the shoulder. It was a whole lot about nothing really," he said.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said it was something Latu, who was also yellow-carded against Argentina in their most recent game, shouldn't have done.

"I understand that he wants to stand up for himself and look after himself and that's part of the game. But not in that manner because it cost us 10 minutes and didn't achieve anything anyway," he said.

Hansen said he and fellow coach Ian Foster were happy with the options Damian McKenzie gave them from fullback in taking the pressure off Beauden Barrett so, "having two first receivers, two drivers on the park at the same time is good for us and something we'll continue to do," he said.

Looking ahead to Ireland on November 17, Hansen was asked how much of an impact halfback Conor Murray's absence would have and his first reaction was to query whether he would definitely be out.

But if he wasn't able to play it would be disappointing because Murray was a great player.

"When you play quality teams you want all their quality players to be there. It's called a Test match for a reason, it's about testing yourself so they'll miss him but what a wonderful opportunity for someone else to step up and play for Ireland which I'm sure whoever that is given the opportunity will do their best to do that," he said.

Hansen and Read both said they had enjoyed their first week in Japan and they had tremendous support from local fans.

Asked what he thought of the Yokohama Stadium which would not only be the venue for the All Blacks' opening game against South Africa, but also for the final, Hansen said the only game the All Blacks were assured of was that against the Springboks, their most traditional rival and a team they had a lot of respect for.

It wasn't only the All Blacks who had learned plenty from the experience but also the local organisers and he felt while the stadium surface had been good on the night it would be even better next year as a result of the game.

"We're really looking forward to it. We've got four more games this year to concentrate on and then it will be time to get really excited," he said.