The All Blacks never-ending quest for improvement has seen head coach Steve Hansen spend the last few days working with the US Marines trying to tap into their legendary mental and physical resolve.

Hansen and All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert visited various US institutions, including the world famous West Point Military Academy observing leadership strategies ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour and the start of what is a landmark year for the All Blacks were they will play 14 tests and two games.

"We had the opportunity to visit the naval academy and marine corp at West Point in the States," says Hansen. "We went up for a few days and had an incredible learning experience and shared some of our stuff as well. We are very thankful for what the departments we visited us gave us.

"We are fortunate that we have a really strong brand which is able to possibly open doors for us that maybe aren't open for other people. We would be foolish if we didn't take these opportunities."


Since taking over as head coach of the All Blacks in 2012 Hansen has encouraged his wider coaching team to seek knowledge and skills from a diverse range of institutions.
Many of the All Blacks staff have spent time with leading US sporting franchises, as well as top European football clubs.

Assistant coach Mike Cron revealed last week that he has recently been studying the art of ballet to learn more about lifting techniques and has also spent time with cage fighters to quiz them on their grappling techniques.

But being able to gain access to the inner sanctum of an institution such as the US Marine Corps has taken the All Blacks into new territory.

"I'm a firm believer in getting outside the square all the time," says Hansen. "We can learn from within and we can learn externally. We have got our heads around the internal bit and that is learning from the Super Rugby franchises, provincial unions, each other, other national unions and other people in our game.

"Externally there is a whole lot of other areas we can explore if we are brave enough to do it and flexible enough in our thinking.

"I am fortunate to head a group of people who are great exponents of wanting to get better and we drive that message to the players and we live it ourselves and we have programmes that we set up for ourselves so that people are going all over the place and coming back to share that information.

"Everybody is probably doing that but if you stop looking to learn then you may as well retire."