In settling his squad after another Super Rugby triumph by a New Zealand team, and in the wake of yet more talk about the haka and its relevance to the All Blacks – an issue, admittedly that will probably never die – there is a sense of the familiar as coach Steve Hansen considers the first Bledisloe Cup test.

That doesn't mean he or the All Blacks are comfortable, however. As Hansen he and his 32-player squad left for Sydney today for next weekend's test at ANZ Stadium, the point was made that the All Blacks must take an attacking mindset to the week; rather than retain the Bledisloe Cup, they must instead win it.

"We've just got to go and re-capture the Bledisloe Cup and the attitude has to be 'take it' rather than expect it to happen," said Hansen.

"We've got a lot of proud about what's been done in the past but at the same time you've got to go and earn it, earn the right to put a hand on it. Even if we win this week it doesn't mean we've won it."


In announcing his All Blacks squad on Thursday last week as his players came into camp in Christchurch, Hansen described the Wallabies as favourites, but while that may be overstating the case a little given New Zealand's recent dominance, he is aware that Michael Cheika's men upped their intensity significantly in the three test series against Ireland in June, which the home side narrowly lost.

Had a few calls gone the Wallabies' way they instead could have been victorious and such are the small margins at this level, Hansen is eager to put his men on high alert from the start. They lost to the Wallabies in Brisbane last October and were probably a little lucky to beat the Australians in Dunedin in the test before that in August – a late comeback leading to Beauden Barrett's try sealing a dramatic win.

Australia's Israel Folau is stopped by New Zealand's Damian McKenzie. Photo / Photosport
Australia's Israel Folau is stopped by New Zealand's Damian McKenzie. Photo / Photosport

Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale represent a dangerous attacking combination and there is real fire and grit now in the pack thanks in part to the development of locks Rory Arnold and Rob Simmons. The return of loose forward David Pocock also adds an extra dimension to the Wallabies.

The Wallabies, too, will have been focusing on little else once the Waratahs were beaten in their Super Rugby semifinal by the Lions in Johannesburg; the All Blacks-laden Crusaders, though, had their minds on other things – most notably beating the Lions in their final in Christchurch and celebrating their back-to-back achievement.

"It took a couple of days for them to get over their celebrations," Hansen admitted. "One or two guys were a bit slower than others. It's usually the younger guys who are a bit less smarter with their ability to re-coup.

"They've been good – the leaders from the Crusaders have been outstanding, really. And the younger boys have picked up. By Saturday everyone was on the same page."

Hansen said the Crusaders fully deserved their chance to let their hair down, but was pleased with the intensity in Friday night's mix and match game against Canterbury and Otago. Owen Franks was the only Crusader involved but any of his teammates watching would have received the message that it was time to get back to work.

"I want to compliment Otago and Canterbury," Hansen said. "They really put everything into it and forced us to play at a pace, which, if you haven't played for a while, was good for us. We got plenty out of it."

Fortunately, there were no injuries, either. Sonny Bill Williams, already out with a shoulder injury, didn't make the trip to Sydney, as expected. Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder has been left at home to play for Manawatu, but the All Blacks did include injured hooker Dane Coles.

Coles, who last played a test in November, travelled in order to lift the intensity of his training as he returns from a knee injury.