James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Is this our greatest All Black side ever?

Team have won 16 tests in a row - just one short of the 17 consecutive victories achieved by the ABs of 1965-69

The All Blacks have arrived in Australia, a step closer to setting the longest winning streak in test history - and with the endorsement from a rugby legend as possibly the greatest New Zealand side to play the game.

The team touched down in Brisbane yesterday for their Bledisloe Cup encounter tomorrow, confident of doing the business against a tattered Wallabies outfit at Suncorp Stadium.

The Wallabies have won 10 of the 12 internationals played at the venue since 2003 - including their 25-20 win over the All Blacks last August to claim the Tri-Nations title. But since that loss the All Blacks have beaten all-comers, claiming their second Rugby World Cup and the inaugural Rugby Championship.

Their list of consecutive test match wins sits at 16, one short of matching the 17 set by the 1965-1969 All Blacks and the 1997-1998 Springboks.

The world record of 18 consecutive test wins was set by minnows Lithuania between 2006 and 2010.

All Black great Michael Jones told the Herald yesterday that history was now there for the team's taking.

"The very fact that they are on the verge of breaking this record suggests that they are potentially one of the best teams ever - especially coming from a World Cup win and then being able to take it to another level of excellence," said the 1987-98 AB.

"I think they are playing better this year than I have ever seen them play, certainly in the last decade."

Jones said the All Blacks' mantra of power, pace and possession was proving too much for their rivals.

The team were playing at a tempo that other teams were struggling to keep up with.

"We also tend to control the game ... It's amazing what we can do with little possession but when we have got more, you know, it's really something else."

Jones dismissed concerns about complacency, saying the players, coaching and management staff were too professional and motivated.

"I think they have such a strong leadership group there that even the most inexperienced guy will have his feet absolutely planted on the ground and it will be very difficult to see them losing."

Another former All Black, Andy Haden, agreed that the current side had the makings of greatness.

"They are very efficient ... They have got a lot of bases covered and if you were going to pick the best team in the world, you would have to include a lot of them in it," he said. "They have demonstrated they have a lot of ability and the other thing they have done is brought in the new blood with a grasp of giving them a game or two. You look at the two young locks [Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock], with [wing Julian] Savea and with [Aaron] Smith the halfback, and they have made them earn their spots and it has kept them hungry for it."

Haden said the team had a focus about it and had demonstrated it could concentrate in all its matches.

"I think it's a combination of experience in the old heads there and probably the wounds of past losses are just under the surface."

The TAB has the All Blacks as overwhelming $1.12 favourites, with Australia paying $5.50. TAB bookmaker Mark Stafford said the All Blacks had paid short odds against the Wallabies in the past - but never while playing them in Australia.

- NZ Herald

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