The All Blacks can now concentrate on the job ahead of them.

The phoney war can end tonight. The anxiety that has been clinging to the All Blacks since the extended squad was first announced in June, will finally be gone. They will have their 31 men and with confirmation will come relief rather than euphoria.

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Relief shouldn't be underestimated, though. Relief in this context means the All Blacks will now be able to rid themselves of the inhibition that has gripped them all season.

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It was a fine balance for the coaches to strike. In the five tests they played this year, they tried to inject competitive tension and an environment where the uncertainty of selection was motivating rather than debilitating.

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They wanted players to be hungry - for them to feel a degree of unease about their prospects, knowing the best way to relieve that was to play well.

In hindsight, they would probably admit the balance tipped a little too far the wrong way. Asked ahead of the test against Argentina whether some players were conscious of the looming cull from 41 players to 31, head coach Steve Hansen said: "Probably too mindful.

"Some of them, I think, are probably worrying about it more than they need to. As I have said to them, they can't control selection. That's [Grant] Foxy's, Fozzy's [assistant coach Ian Foster] and my job. Their job is to go out and perform. That is the one thing they can control. That comes from preparing well during the week and letting their talents speak for themselves."

Much the same thing happened in 2011. The All Blacks gave the impression they were over-thinking things before the World Cup, worried about making mistakes. Once they got to the tournament proper, though, they were a different beast. The same thing will happen now.

In the next few weeks, the focus at training will change. Everyone will be there with one goal and no distractions.

When players are asked about the World Cup, they can talk about it, knowing they are going. These little things matter - rugby teams need clarity, focus and certainty to function properly.

Just as important is routine and continuity and, in regard to selection, the All Blacks haven't had enough of the latter. To give everyone in the extended squad of 41 a fair crack at making the World Cup, they juggled their selections. That hasn't been Hansen's way and it won't be what they do at the World Cup.

"The hardest part about trying to build a game is that if you keep changing the team, people aren't getting that rhythm and understanding," said Hansen after the 41-13 defeat of the Wallabies.


"Now that we've got these tests out of the way and had a look, by and large, at all 41 players, we can settle down and say this is the team we're going to take. We won't see a lot of changes [in team selection at the World Cup].

"We'll probably play the same group most of the time, apart from the first two games. But after that, we will settle into a pattern and try to build some momentum and consistency."

Having free and focused minds combined with consistent selection should make an immediate and obvious difference to performance. And there is a third factor linked to this: the All Blacks have, without doubt, been holding a little back tactically.

They haven't wanted to show their full hand yet and innovating and adapting will be a big part of their training focus before they play their first game against Argentina.

The All Blacks showed virtually no new tricks in the last five tests. They relied on their basic skills, physicality, resilience and natural athleticism. They have plenty cooking that will be unveiled in England.

They haven't used their rolling maul yet and surely will. They didn't show any clever backs moves from set-piece ball. It was simple stuff and, again, they must have a few ideas on how to use the strike running threats of Julian Savea and Ben Smith.

Nor did they work with the two first-fives for any great period of time. They will at the World Cup. In the knockout rounds, expect to see both Daniel Carter and Beauden Barrett on the field in the final 20 minutes.

There was one surprise lineout move in Johannesburg and that was it. There's so much more to come now that the phoney war is over.

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