Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks face big test at Twickenham

It wouldn't have taken the All Blacks long after arriving in London to be reminded, if indeed they had ever forgotten, that this is one of the cities in the world where losing is a non-negotiable.

Old world icons are everywhere, the empire is certainly not forgotten and the sense of ownership and entitlement is hard to escape. Twickenham has always, perhaps a little pompously, been the self-appointed home of the game: rugby's version of the Vatican and defeats there carry a peculiarly acute pain.

The All Blacks never forgave themselves for losing 15-9 in 1993. The draw in 1997 felt like a defeat such was the furore from the home side and, even now there are Kiwis everywhere who can't make peace with the fact that Ben Blair didn't actually score in the closing minutes to confine the All Blacks to another loss.

There are few worse feelings for All Blacks than trudging off the hallowed turf, the stadium a sea of white and raucous singing of Swing Low driving into the soul.

"Always," was Piri Weepu's emphatic answer when asked if England are a team the All Blacks still love to beat. "I guess it is just like the New Zealand/Aussie rivalry. We will definitely be going full on this week and making sure we get our preparation right.

"There is always talk about the history between the two countries and obviously we have got a Kiwi boy who is with the squad [Thomas Waldrom]. I guess, with the new fellas, we can touch upon what the history has been like. I am pretty sure for the last game of the tour there won't be much motivation needed."

That natural mental stimulus will be handy as physically the All Blacks admitted that they had little left in the tank for the final 10 minutes in Cardiff. England have the capacity to test them for the full 80 so it will be a game where they need to dig deep and tap into the powerful motivation force that the fear of losing can sometimes bring.

Just as important will be retaining the discipline and ensuring that the All Blacks don't enhance their reputation in Europe as a side that is willing to indulge in off the ball nonsense.

Adam Thomson was cited in Edinburgh and Andrew Hore was this morning cited for his swinging arm in Cardiff.

Hansen knows his side are perceived in a poor light and he knows they can't afford a third judicial experience.

"That is what happens every time we come up here. I think they think we are thugs or something but we don't play differently to anyone else.

"I think we have shown plenty of times over the last 12 months that we are a disciplined side. If you look at the incidents that have surrounded Richie we have not jumped in and made it a big scene.

"We pride ourselves on playing good rugby and yes we are physical and we don't take any backward steps - and we don't expect our opposition to do that either - but we don't go out there to do things [foul play] intentionally."

- Herald on Sunday

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