Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: All Blacks motivated for place in history

The All Blacks want this consecutive victories record. Really want it. There's plenty of reasons why, but none driving them harder than their desire to make a definitive statement about their place in history.

This All Blacks team loves the opportunity to create legacy. That's what drove them between 2012 and 2015 - their desire to become the most dominant team in history, a goal they felt they would achieve if they became the first team to record a perfect season and win back-to-back World Cups.

They wanted to collect the consecutive victories record along the way, too, but when they drew with the Wallabies first in 2012 and then again in 2014, they blew their chance.

On Saturday they can achieve what they have previously failed to do and own another record. Having a tangible footprint matters. Obviously it matters because the team have spent time talking and thinking about it.

That much was revealed by Sam Cane when he said that there have been more than 5000 tests between Tier One nations and no side has ever managed to win 18 on the trot.

That's not a statistic he stumbled upon, it is one that would have been given to the players by management in their efforts to put the enormity of the opportunity into context. Management want the players excited by the goal - they want them to embrace and not fear the pressure that comes with big tests.

Throughout the last World Cup the players talked of walking towards the pressure. It worked well for them. They accepted that as holders and favourites they were the team carrying the heaviest burden of expectation.

There was no point in pretending otherwise or trotting out cliches about each fixture being just another game. They instead talked about their love of big challenges and their belief that it brought the best out of them.

This is the mindset they are adopting again and using the sense of occasion to fuel them mentally and emotionally to collect a record that will come with added benefits.

If the All Blacks can win at Eden Park it will keep them in track to record another perfect season. With games against Ireland twice, Italy and France, they have the opportunity to repeat what they did in 2013 and go through a calendar year without suffering a defeat.

Without dismissing the quality of any of the Northern teams, of the five tests remaining this year, the one against the Wallabies presents as the toughest and probably the biggest impediment to New Zealand's perfect season aspirations.

Not to be diminished either is the pride that will come if the All Blacks can sweep the Bledisloe series 3-0. The relationship between the two sides is tense and difficult.

The last game they played was marred by endless niggle and mini flare-ups, while the respective coaches traded verbal blows. Australia would love nothing more than to rain on New Zealand's parade as they have twice before, while the All Blacks will never tire of feeling the joy that comes with beating the Wallabies.

As former captain Richie McCaw revealed this week, he hated losing to the Wallabies, ranking it as the worst possible experience any All Black could suffer. New captain Kieran Read is unlikely to feel differently and the extreme pain of losing to the Wallabies would be magnified if it happens this week as it would kill the world record, destroy the perfect season and end a 22-year unbeaten run at Eden Park.

- NZ Herald

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