‘Focused’ All Blacks won’t be distracted by Australia in world record bid
A New Zealand win on Saturday would see them break record for consecutive test wins by a top-tier nation
New Zealand have warned Australia they won’t let any provocation stand in the way of Saturday’s date with destiny when they hope to break the 47-year-old record for consecutive test wins.
Victory to the world champions in Auckland would give them their 18th consecutive win, a new record for a top-tier nation, and see them acknowledged as the best side in rugby history.
The current record of 17 successive wins was set by the 1965-1969 All Blacks, equalled by South Africa in 1997-1998 and the All Blacks again in 2013-2014 before their current unbeaten run which began in August last year.
Coach Steve Hansen said that with both the Bledisloe Cup series against Australia and the Rugby Championship already in the bag, the All Blacks have set their sights on being crowned the best ever side.
“Once you embrace something like that it becomes a challenge and this group has shown they like challenges especially big ones like this one, like no one’s ever done it,” he said.
“This in an opportunity. It’s there right in front of us.”
The Wallabies have already been whipped twice by the All Blacks this year, and they have not won in New Zealand since 2001.
Australia last won at Eden Park 30 years ago – but they do have a reputation for snapping All Black winning streaks.
In 2010 they stopped a run of 15 All Blacks victories. They halted a 16-match winning streak in 2012 and two years later, a 12-12 draw in Sydney left the All Blacks stranded on 17.
The last time the two sides met, when the All Blacks won 29-9 in Wellington two months ago, it was an ill-tempered affair which only settled down when Wallaby lock Adam Coleman was yellow-carded for a late charge at the end of the first half.
New Zealand hooker Dane Coles warned if there is any niggle this time, the men in black will not allow themselves to be side-tracked again.
“We’ve got to react a little bit faster than we did in the Wellington test and be a bit more task-focused. If they do bring it we’ll match it in the rules but we’re keen to play footy and get on with the job,” he said.
“There’s a bit of history on the line and (it) being the last test at home this year is pretty motivating.”
The Wallabies showed against Argentina and South Africa in the latter part of the Rugby Championship that they had vastly improved, particularly in the forwards, from their earlier timid efforts against the All Blacks.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who has delayed naming his side until late Thursday, said the All Blacks believe the result is a foregone conclusion.
“They’d be thinking they’ll do it easy,” he said, before adding: “We haven’t really tested them this year ... I look forward to it. Bring it on.”
Hansen was taking no chances with his line-up, putting together his most experienced available players.
The only change to the run-on side that thrashed the Springboks 57-15 two weeks ago sees the bruising Julian Savea return to the left wing in place of Waisake Naholo.
Two changes are made on the bench with a fit-again Aaron Cruden returning along with centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Hansen has also stuck with Matt Todd at openside flanker in place of the injured Sam Cane and ahead of the promising Ardie Savea, who is on the bench.