The All Blacks are fast discovering attitude and experience is everything at this level.

When they get the attitude bit right, they are near unstoppable. When they don't, well, we get what we got against the spirited Scots.

In Beauden Barrett's match-saving tackle and a seven-man scrum under their sticks, the All Blacks harnessed the necessary desire when they needed it most at Murrayfield.

But the frustrating part is it wasn't always there.


And it's not the first time this year it hasn't quite been there. The same was true in the Brisbane defeat, with the Bledisloe Cup already locked away, and in Cape Town after previously thrashing the Springboks in Albany. The second halves in both Paris and Sydney, with those games won by halftime, were other occasions it fell short.

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All teams rise for the All Blacks, rugby's greatest challenge, but, if we're honest, only twice this year have they hit the level expected; in Albany and the first dig at the British and Irish Lions.

There are, of course, extenuating circumstances. Two years on from the 2015 World Cup, only seven players, two starters, remain. Injuries to 10 other influential senior leaders further erodes crucial experience that drives the training week and captures the right mindset.

"Leadership is something you learn," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "Richie McCaw in 2007 was quoted as being the worst leader in All Blacks history because we went out in the quarterfinal.

"We won in '11 and '15 and everyone wanted to tell us he's the best leader ever so something happened; he grew as a leader. All the information we get on leaders, and we've done a lot of research, is they're not just instant.

"Maybe last year everyone underestimated us a wee bit and we had such great year. Maybe we've overestimated ourselves I don't know."

Even so, there is no real excuse for not getting the attitude right.


Maybe the All Blacks, like many of us, were guilty of thinking it would come easy against a Scottish side decimated by injuries and coming off a narrow, unconvincing win over Samoa.

Sure, Scotland deserve credit. Coming within one pass of a famous victory with their most inspired effort in recent memory delivered the closest result since 1991 against the All Blacks.

But Kieran Read's men did themselves no favours with the way they started this match. Attitude, or hunger, can be difficult to gauge but it is evident in not winning the advantage line; not being committed enough to the breakdown, or rushing off the line on defence.

"For us in that first half it wasn't a skill thing we were maybe five per cent off with our attitude," the All Blacks captain revealed. "It just made it harder for us. It comes from within. It starts with the individual so we've got to look at ourselves and our prep and see what we can do better.

"We got in a position to close out the game and perhaps in the past we've done that better. Even with five minutes to go we had a chance to really settle it down. We've got to be better at that, but full credit to Scotland, they fought right from that first whistle to the 80th and kept coming at us."

As attention turns to Cardiff and the intriguing final showdown of the year with Wales, disappointment from within the squad should ensure there is no repeat of the attitude issue.

"It's pretty easily rectified Scotland rectified it for them," Hansen said. "Can you sense it? It's a difficult one. You think things are going along quite nicely. There's little things that give you alarm bells but by the time you see those it's usually too late."

In typical Hansen style, he compared proper preparation to cleaning windows.

"When you're really desperate and urgent you get the corner bits and when you're not you don't and you still think the window is clean when it is not.

"They've got an opportunity in a week's time to play a really good test match. It's the last of the year and they'll want to do it really well."

Not for the first time, Hansen batted away probes about Gatland's threat in his book to reveal dirt on the All Blacks but their fractured relationship is sure to be the elephant in the room this week.

"Like everyone they're starting to try and play some football which is good. He's gone away from what he normally does - going round the corner - to trying to use his forwards in a different way and hold some of them on the short side and use the ball more.

"Everyone is really excited about a week that's going to be really challenging and this team always responds to good challenges."