Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: ABs warned to keep guard up

The All Black forwards can not afford to be complacent about the third Bledisloe test in Dunedin tonight. Photo / Getty Images
The All Black forwards can not afford to be complacent about the third Bledisloe test in Dunedin tonight. Photo / Getty Images

In case any All Blacks have shelved the discomfort, coach Steve Hansen should pen Brisbane 2012 in red warning pen on the whiteboard.

In capitals, as well, to highlight what occurs when any team, no matter its premier rating in world rugby, neglects some of the basics about preparing for a test match.

In Hansen's unique vocabulary, the All Blacks did not go "bone deep" in their work at Brisbane a year ago and were fortunate to end with a stalemate against a Wallaby side they had already beaten twice.

Instead of celebrating Keven Mealamu's 100th test they skulked back to the dressing room as Australians celebrated.

The All Blacks failed to get the forward ascendancy they needed and struggled at the breakdown in the humid conditions in Brisbane. The stutters up front had a ripple effect through the backline.

This year they have gone through a similar run, beating all-comers including the Wallabies twice with tonight's third duel in Dunedin, the final domestic display before the tour to Japan and Europe.

Seven of the pack who gloomily filed off Suncorp Stadium have been asked to make amends in Dunedin, only Brodie Retallick has been benched to allow Jeremy Thrush a start.

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Initially the acid is on that septet to make inroads and set the Wallabies on their heels. Scrum, lineout, ruck, defence - they all have to be on the money.

Recent evidence, said Hansen, showed the All Blacks had an edge on the Wallabies.

Using that advantage against a Wallaby side everyone thought the All Blacks should beat was the task, and answering that challenge had to be the mental tag for the team.

"We know we have got the advantage ever so slightly over them but if we relax then we lose that advantage. So it is as much mental preparation as anything else.

"We have to respect them totally and we have to prepare to the utmost of our ability," Hansen warned.

That did not happen a year ago in Brisbane but the squad had made some adjustments and felt they had gained a little extra by delaying their assembly this week.

The staff had also asked the squad to show they could back up their superb work in Johannesburg with a repeat display in Dunedin.

Sports teams throughout history struggled with that concept and the All Blacks were driven to alter that pattern. This was their stage to make that sort of statement as a springboard for their end of year expedition.

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The Lions series win against the Wallabies has given sides in Europe an extra fillip, so a statement tonight about the All Blacks' form against the same rival would be a useful message.

Attention to all areas will be crucial because the Wallabies showed against the Pumas how they could score tries if they got some latitude.

"[Quade] Cooper is very flairy and when he is allowed to play without pressure he is very dangerous," said Hansen. "We will need to be awake defensively because he will do the unexpected."

A change to centre for Ben Smith, the reintroduction of Keven Mealamu and the start for Jeremy Thrush will all be scrutinised for their impact on the team dynamics.

If the All Blacks are put under the pump for sustained periods, do they have the ability to extricate themselves from the sort of squeeze they suffered in Brisbane, or will they be able to produce the style their staff know they have?

- NZ Herald

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