New Zealand coach Graham Henry admitted he had been given some “selection headaches” after seeing a largely second-string team run in 16 tries against Portugal in a Pool C mismatch in Lyon today.
The All Blacks, the World Cup favourites, followed up their 76-14 thrashing of Italy last weekend with a 108-13 win against the amateurs of Portugal.
It was men-against-boys stuff for the most part, but Henry maintained he now had some thinking to do before his team’s next game – a clash with Scotland at Murrayfield.
“I was delighted with the way the guys handled the game, showed their skills and treated the opposition with dignity,” said the 2001 Lions coach.
“I think it’s important that we gave games to the 11 guys who didn’t play against Italy. They will feel part of it now.
“They felt they played well and that will give them confidence.
“It has given us a few selection headaches. It was a good performance and we are pleased with how they played as a team.
“I hope Portugal are also pleased – they seemed to be happy after the game.”
Stand-in captain Jerry Collins was one of 13 All Blacks to score tries against the Portuguese.
Joe Rokocoko, Aaron Mauger and Conrad Smith grabbed two each to further their causes for selection in Edinburgh next weekend, while Nick Evans – deputising for rested fly-half star Dan Carter – weighed in with 33 points thanks to a try and 14 conversions.
New Zealand ran in five tries in the last 12 minutes of the first half and seven tries in the final 21 minutes of the second half.
There were intermittent sloppy spells for the Kiwis, but Collins put that down to over-enthusiasm.
“I think there were 11 guys who hadn’t played, so it was all about finding rhythm,” said the powerful flanker.
“Guys were eager to get into the game. Once the rhythm came, we got into the groove.
“Everyone is eager to impress, so in some ways it’s a matter of stemming the enthusiasm. When we found the groove, it was good.”
Henry revealed Mils Muliaina, who came off after six minutes to be replaced by Leon MacDonald, had suffered a “small tear” to his left hamstring.
But he added the full-back could be fit for Scotland next weekend.
Despite the heavy scoreline, Portugal coach Tomaz Morais felt it was an “excellent day” for the country and for world rugby in general.
Morais, who saw Rui Cordeiro score a try, Goncalo Malheiro a drop-goal and Duarte Pinto a conversion and a penalty, was also proud to see his side avoid slipping to a record defeat in the World Cup.
Japan still have that unfortunate tag after losing 145-17 to New Zealand in 1995.
“Our goals for the game were clear and we knew we were playing against New Zealand, the greatest team over the past few years,” said Morais.
“They have beaten great teams by over 70 points but we had a positive attitude and managed to score a try.
“Another objective was to prevent them breaking the world record. They didn’t do that so we are survivors.
“It was physical but we are happy and proud of our players. It’s an excellent day for rugby in Portugal and the world.
“Rugby has to evolve and it’s only by playing against the best players that we can evolve.”
Portugal captain Vasco Uva was delighted to see some of his side’s tactics pay dividends, and was proud of the way his players managed to keep the All Blacks to just a 12-3 scoreline after 25 minutes.
“For the first 25 minutes, we played good rugby and made some hard tackles,” the number eight said.
“We played until the end and we scored a try – our first ever against New Zealand.
“One of our objectives was to score a try. We had chances in the first half but we did it in the second and that’s fantastic for us.”
He added: “We knew their back three are the best in the world, so we tried to keep the ball away from them.
“So we ran hard, and tried to keep the ball away from them. The first three tries were because of our kicks but we improved on that.
“It was our way of playing, not to give the ball to them.”