Rugby Union

Ma'a Nonu earns praise from Steven Hansen after try on 100th New Zealand cap

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All Blacks coach Steven Hansen has paid tribute to centurion Ma'a Nonu after the centre marked his 100th New Zealand cap with a try.

The world champions rounded off their pool campaign with their fourth straight win after thrashing Tonga 47-9 in Newcastle.

But the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Nonu when he crossed over for his side's seventh score three minutes from time.

Skipper Richie McCaw presented the centre with a golden cap after the match before he was carried off on the shoulders of his team-mates.

Hansen said: "I was never good enough to play for the All Blacks and I'd give up all my days coaching just to have played one game.

"But Ma'a has played 100 games and anyone who does that for the All Blacks means you are a good player. Over the years he has matured into one of the best centres we've ever had.

"He should be extremely proud. We're proud of him and for him to score tonight was special."

But while there was joy for Nonu, there was agony for fellow centurion Tony Woodcock.

The 34-year-old prop scored his side's second try but limped off just minutes into the second half with a torn hamstring and Hansen admitted the injury could now end his All Blacks career.

He said: "It could possibly be a long-term injury but we won't know until tomorrow.

"If it's a bad tear it could be reasonably serious. He has played a lot of games for the All Blacks so it would be a sad way for him to finish.

"He's been a great All Black and he deserves to go out better than this."

Tries from Ben Smith, Woodcock and a second-half double from Nehe Milner-Skudder handed the All Blacks a bonus point at St James' Park.

Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Cane also crossed over before Nonu's special moment three minutes from time as the World Cup favourites eventually won by a convincing margin.

The All Blacks were far from slick during a sloppy first half however and will have to turn it up when they take on either France or Ireland in the last eight.

But Hansen is not concerned.

"Whatever has happened in the past month is irrelevant now," he said. "I've been to four World Cups and I've learned a few things a long the way. How you are playing during the pools means nothing.

"I remember beating Italy by 90 points in France and then getting knocked out in the quarters.

"What happens next week is all that matters.

"I don't care who we play. All I care about is that we make it.

"Who we play is irrelevant. France and Ireland still have to play and hopefully they get stuck into it and wear each other out. Both are quality teams so there is no advantage to playing one over the other."

Tonga will now have to qualify for the next World Cup in Japan in 2019 after missing out on third place in the group.

But skipper Nili Latu was still pleased with his team's campaign, saying: "We started our campaign really slowly but I believe that was our strongest performance to date.

"It's not often you come up against the All Blacks. I've played for a long time and that's the first time I've come up against the All Blacks.

"I'm really proud of my boys for the way they finished off like that tonight."

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