Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Hansen looks for ABs to lift bar - again

Coach pleased but says team must improve each game to achieve vision.

All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and TJ Perenara carry the Bledisloe Cup, secured for another year. Photo / Greg Bowker
All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and TJ Perenara carry the Bledisloe Cup, secured for another year. Photo / Greg Bowker

The All Blacks are aiming to make the most of their week off as they seek to somehow improve on their record-breaking Bledisloe Cup performance against Australia before they take on Argentina in Napier.

They will be without the impressive Ryan Crotty at McLean Park in a fortnight, the midfielder out for four weeks after fracturing a jawbone in the 51-20 six-tries-to-two Eden Park romp which put the Wallabies firmly back in their place after the Sydney stalemate.

All Blacks v Wallabies - more coverage:
Pack 'went to a dark place'
Selectors spoiled for choice
ABs want to plateau at their peak

The likely return of Ma'a Nonu from a shoulder injury to partner Conrad Smith in the midfield will boost Steve Hansen's team, who, if the vibes from the coach yesterday are any indication, won't be getting carried away with the victory despite its dominant nature.

For them it appears to be business as usual. The Bledisloe Cup is wrapped up for another year, the desired response found after the disappointing draw at ANZ Stadium.

For Ewen McKenzie's team, who came to Auckland determined to overturn a hoodoo stretching back to 1986, they must now turn their sights on resurrecting their Rugby Championship after a beating which is likely to leave mental, as well as physical, scars. They will face the Springboks in Perth in a fortnight without hooker Nathan Charles, who has a chest problem, and wing Pat McCabe, who has another neck issue.

Crotty apart, the All Blacks' injury list is much less serious. Beauden Barrett rolled an ankle after replacing Cory Jane early in the second half but played on. Jane got a knock to a knee which also isn't serious. First-five Aaron Cruden hurt a chest muscle but will also be fine.

Hansen, proud of what he called a special performance from his team at Eden Park, was level-headed yesterday as he considered his next challenge.

Discipline apart - and two more needless yellow cards to Richie McCaw and Ben Franks are likely to be talked about over the next fortnight - there are few obvious areas where the All Blacks can improve, but improve they must, Hansen said.

Watch: Rugby Highlights: All Blacks 51 Wallabies 20

"The big thing we want to do is try to get better every time we play," he said. "We clearly don't do that every time but that's what we want to do and that's what's driving us every time, to be better, better, better, better. If we do that we know it's going to take a really good side to beat us.

"We've got a lot of motivated older athletes and a lot of motivated younger athletes and we're all working well together on that point. And when you have a group working together and they're cohesive and they're talented, then you've got the opportunity to achieve the vision that you have."

Australia felt they were on the verge of creating history at Eden Park. In order to change things up it is understood coach McKenzie issued a directive that they stay at a different hotel.

FULL MATCH STATS VIA HERALD RUGBY STATS CENTRE

To dispel the "mystique" of the park, where the All Blacks haven't lost in 20 years, he made his team stay on the field at halftime. The staggered green and gold line facing up to the haka was apparently designed to make his players look bigger in the All Blacks' eyes.

You have to hand it to him for trying, but clearly none of the measures worked. After the pre-match fireworks drama the All Blacks turned on their own pyrotechnics and probably would have won by more had they not eased off around the hour mark.

"We had a passive start to the game," McKenzie said. "When you're chasing 20-odd points against a team like the All Blacks, it's a dangerous exercise."

Record breakers

51 highest score by All Blacks v Australia (beat previous of 50 set in 2003)
11 Richie McCaw's total try tally is the most against Australia by any player
5 Aaron Cruden's conversion tally is equal best with Bob Scott's against Australia in 1946
31 the points margin is the third highest for the All Blacks v Australia (highest is 37 set in 1996)

OPTA MATCH STATS

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 27 Dec 2014 23:17:04 Processing Time: 662ms