The All Blacks completed the first leg of their end of year tour with an entertaining 69-31 win over Japan last night in Tokyo. Eight new caps made their debuts in the second-string side and after the game, it was hard to wipe the smiles off their faces.
Canterbury winger George Bridge, in particular, stood out, scoring with his first touch of the ball and creating a number of opportunities. Just for good measure, he added another try, the final five-pointer of the day for the All Blacks.
“I guess the intensity is right up there, but it was good fun, I enjoyed it,” he told the media after the game.
Previously unheralded Brett Cameron was solid in his stint off the bench, talking mostly about how proud his family was. Likewise prop Tyrel Lomax, whose father Johnny played for the Kiwis and gave his son some advice about "going out and making the family proud".
More senior members Ngani Laumape and Richie Mo’unga also echoed the positive feeling, with the Hurricanes midfielder satisfied with his hat-trick. In particular, he was happy with his third, which came off a deft grubber kick.
“I think that’s the first one I pulled off all year,” he said.
Mo’unga, who scored 22 points in the win, relished his role as an on-field leader.
“It’s awesome to start a game and take control.”
The main All Black squad is already in London, preparing for the next test against England next Sunday morning NZT.