Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: French fright keeps ABs grounded

The All Blacks train ahead of Saturday's test against the Wallabies. Photo / Getty Images
The All Blacks train ahead of Saturday's test against the Wallabies. Photo / Getty Images

The Wallabies have been written off on both sides of the Tasman but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen doesn't have to look too far back for reasons to respect apparent easy-beats at Eden Park.

Having heard former Australia player Mark Ella and former All Blacks coach Graham Henry give the men in green and gold no chance following their loss in Sydney last weekend, Hansen today was quick to point out a familiar scenario before the final of the World Cup.

"Just go back six months and we had a few people saying the same things about the French and we beat them by a point," Hansen said. "Our job is to prepare well, to respect the opposition, which we do, and keep ourselves grounded."

Not surprisingly, Hansen isn't buying into the Wallabies' Eden Park hoodoo which last saw them beat the All Blacks there as far back as 1986. He added that last Saturday's 27-19 defeat had resulted in a fair bit of soul-searching for the Australians and he was expecting a commensurate response.

"You've got a choice, you can either carry the burden of the teams that have gone before you on your shoulders or you front up on the day and make the battle about that day," he said.

"Australia will be pretty disappointed with how they played last week. It sounds like they've battened down the hatches and have got into a bit. We've got to expect that they'll raise their game, their intensity and their accuracy of their game, so therefore we'll have to do the same. We've got plenty that we can improve on and if we've got a good mental approach to the game, which during the week's preparation we've started to see come out, then we've given ourselves a chance of winning the game."

Hansen and his fellow selectors have made just once change for the second of three Bledisloe Cup matches, and that was injury-forced, with Wyatt Crockett coming in at loosehead prop for Tony Woodcock, as expected.

The remaining squad members have been given a pass mark for their performances at ANZ Stadium but have been told that improvements were required.

"We haven't played for a wee while so we felt it was important to get our combinations going and give the group that started a re-start. We were happy with how they went but we're expecting them to go up a level."

For Crockett, who has played six tests after making his debut in 2009, it is a chance to impress 12 months after his last outing in black - also against Australia at Eden Park.

He said he was focusing on doing the basics well, which for him means scrummaging solidly, in particular, against a pack which has made improvements in this area.

"It's never been easy for the All Blacks, it's always been a real challenge," Crockett said. "They've got some good boys in there and in the past 12 months they've come a long way as well."

All Blacks team to play Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

- APNZ

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