Head coach Ian Foster lauded a “great” victory after the All Blacks walloped Italy on Friday to reignite their World Cup bid.
The three-time champions were under pressure coming into this match, knowing that defeat would have seen them crashing out of the pool stages for the first time.
But with their backs against the wall, they put in a stunning 14-try 96-17 demolition of their overmatched opponents.
“Delighted. We wanted to make a statement, we felt like we have had a couple of good weeks and felt like we had to rebuild momentum in this tournament after having that break,” said Foster.
The All Blacks hadn’t played for a couple of weeks since thrashing Namibia 71-3 following their opening 27-13 loss to France.
“To come out against a team that we legitimately had concerns about, because they are a good team and had played some great rugby leading into this, and put them away like that was really pleasing,” Foster told Sky Sports.
With minnows Uruguay to come next, New Zealand can almost start preparing for the quarter-finals, something Foster said other teams amongst the favourites cannot.
France could still fail to reach the quarter-finals if they lose to Italy next week in Pool A and Ireland are not guaranteed to go through to the knock-outs despite having beaten reigning champions South Africa in Pool B.
“The great thing for us is that we had a pressure game tonight that we had to front up and play; there are other teams that have got that coming up too,” said Foster.
“People talk about other teams already being in the quarter-finals but there are still ramifications and things to happen.”
And Foster insisted that despite scoring 25 tries in their last two matches against Italy and Namibia, New Zealand would not be taking Uruguay lightly next week.
“We will be better because we put ourselves under pressure for this one and we will learn a bit about ourselves,” he said.
“Uruguay have been a niggly team to play, so we have to respect that, but clearly we are where we want to be right now.”
Centre Jordie Barrett, whose sublime cross-field kick for wing Will Jordan set New Zealand’s stall out for the evening after just six minutes, said he was disappointed with the All Blacks’ start to the second half, when they conceded a try to Ange Capuozzo.
“We were good for the most parts, then a bit sloppy in a 10-minute period after half time,” he said. “As a team, we let them back in with poor discipline and, with all due respect, against a side in a finals, we might get in trouble with that stuff.
“We did most things well tonight, but there are areas where we can get better.”
Italy’s Kiwi coach Kieran Crowley pointed to his team’s poor set-piece as one factor which contributed to the rout. They lost six scrums and five line-outs during the match.
“It turned into a bit of a glorified training run from them,” admitted Crowley. “We won 33% of our scrum and 50 percent of our line-out. They put pressure on us, we gave away eight penalties because of that pressure in the first half and they beat us up at the breakdown.
“Give them credit, they were outstanding tonight with their carry and their clean out work.
“We gave up those three tries in five minutes which really put us on the back foot and it was all gone from then.”
© Agence France-Presse