CARDIFF, 2 Oct - Steve Hansen defended his side's performance at the Millennium Stadium and lavished praise on his squad for becoming the first nation through to the quarter-finals of Rugby World Cup 2015.

Although the world champions scored seven tries in beating Georgia 43-10 in a Pool C match in Cardiff, there were long periods of the game during which they were well below par - or so it seemed.

Hansen brushed off claims that he must have been disappointed with the manner in which his side stumbled past a side ranked 14 places beneath them.

"Our initial aim was to qualify for the quarter-finals and along the way, you try to work on your game. That's the attitude we have taken," Hansen said.

"OK, our execution wasn't great, but we have plenty of talent in the squad and the aspects of our game that we were working on, were pretty good. 

"I have said all along, you don't get any gold medals for winning these games. However, we are in the quarter-finals which is exciting.

"It's good to be put under that pressure when you are problem-solving and that's what happened tonight. 

"It would be great if we were winning by more points, but it's not that important."

With Waisake Naholo, Julian Savea, twice, and Dane Coles crossing the whitewash inside the opening quarter, the All Blacks looked well placed to go on and win at a canter.

However, Beka Tsiklauri's converted try and a penalty from outside half Lasha Malaguradze kept Georgia in touch as the All Blacks became increasingly careless.

The Georgians, who made wholesale changes for the game, were equally combative after the interval until a quickly taken free kick set up Kieran Read for a try that Dan Carter, whose radar had also been surprisingly off, converted. 

But still, the expected avalanche of points never came. In fact, Georgia gave us good as they got for long periods and with added composure might have closed the gap.

Unfortunately, in the final six minutes, Savea completed his hat-trick and replacement Malakai Fekitoa made it seven.

 

Pride on display

Georgian coach Milton Haig said: "I am a proud coach. I asked the boys during the week to play with pride and to play for the jersey and the country.

"I wanted them to show the rugby world what Georgian rugby is all about. For large parts of the game tonight, we did just that.

"It was always going to be important for us to prove to the world that we have the ability to play some rugby. 

"That's not easy against a side like New Zealand, but I thought we did it really well."

For Georgia, victory over Namibia in their final pool game will secure their place at RWC 2019. For New Zealand, it's off to Newcastle before returning to south Wales for their quarter-final against France or Ireland.

RNS gc/ej