Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: New age All Blacks one of the best teams ever

As the 2016 international season develops, it becomes increasingly apparent the All Blacks' greatest enemy is themselves.

They are now 15 games unbeaten and in the middle of a run of form that makes it hard not to think of this team as shaping as one of the best in history. The rugby they are playing at times is both devastatingly simple and devastating.

Their set-piece has been supremely good and often not fully appreciated as their foundation. The physical intensity of their performances is relentlessly high and their mix of structure and intuition in the backs has opened defences with ease. They have also kicked and tackled well and have become the genuine triple threat side they aspire to be.

No one has got close to them for what seems like an age. The last team to do so was South Africa at last year's World Cup but almost a year on, the Boks have regressed to the stage where they were thankful to not concede 50 points tonight.

The Wallabies, World Cup finalists and the last team to beat New Zealand, have been walloped three times in the All Blacks' 15-test unbeaten run. Whatever they were threatening to be in July last year, they haven't become.

Like the Boks, they have gone backwards and Argentina are possibly the closest thing beneath the Equator to a credible opponent, and even they were beaten by 35 points last week.

England could be a threat but we won't find out until 2018 at the earliest and, given their coach Eddie Jones' track record, they may be exposed as not being quite as good as they think they are long before then.

There's no point in pretending, the All Blacks are some way the best side in the world and it will take a supreme effort to beat them. Either that, or it will take the All Blacks to have an off day - quite a bad one - for them to be beaten.

And this is the danger now for New Zealand. They have to drive their standards in the face of slightly-underwhelming competition. They have to continue to ignore their opponents and believe only that they are vulnerable, as beatable as anyone, and, most importantly, ignore the growing noises from an enthused rugby fraternity that is increasingly talking up the All Blacks as invincible.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen admitted he has been surprised at how far his team have come in a short time but will continue to drive home the need for complacency to be kept at bay.

"If I am being really honest, no," he said when asked if he imagined the All Blacks would be this good at this stage of the season. "I knew we had some really talented people but we had also lost some talent.

"And the thing we lost the most was experience. I am really pleased at how Reado (Kieran Read) has stepped up to the plate and we have probably gone to another level because he has been open and flexible in his thinking and that has allowed him to lead subtly differently to the guys who have left and who did such a wonderful job for us for four years.

"I said it before and I will keep saying it, when you cut down big trees that cast big shadows you will always find that guys will stand up and our guys are standing up and leading well, preparing well and the coaches are coaching well. All the other staff are doing everything that they possibly can to the best of their ability so the machine is ticking over quite nicely and, as a result of that, we are playing good rugby.

"We have to keep asking ourselves to get better every day and, if we do that, then we are a chance."

- NZ Herald

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