Hansen hails All Blacks progress
Steve Hansen hailed the progress made by New Zealand in 2017 as they begin preparations for their final Test of the year against Wales in Cardiff.
Legendary trio Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Ma'a Nonu retired after the All Blacks' successful 2015 World Cup campaign, leaving Hansen with numerous gaps to fill in his side, but they picked up where they had left off, until a defeat to Ireland in Chicago last year ended a world-record winning run at 18 successive triumphs.
New Zealand drew a three-game series with the British and Irish Lions before winning six of six in the Rugby Championship.
The likes of Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea have emerged as new All Blacks stars, captained by Kieran Read, and Hansen is impressed with the progression he has overseen.
"There's seven people from the 2015 World Cup team in this squad," Hansen told the All Blacks' official website.
"When you hear that, there's a hell of a lot of experience gone out the door, either injured or left. And only three starters, so two years later you're still trying to capture that experience and understanding of how to play the game.
"That's what I keep saying to people. I thought 2016 would be a tough year but we got through it pretty well and unscathed from an adversity point of view, apart from the Chicago event.
"But this year we've had to work hard and it's been good for us. It's put us in places mentally where we've got to go inside ourselves and find the strength and the courage to get the job done, and by and large we've done that.
"It's been a good year for the team because we've had to grow."