For All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, this is a test like any other – it comes with the usual expectation of a good performance and a victory. No change there, then.

And yet, really, it's a bit different; it's his 100th in charge of New Zealand, it's his final Bledisloe Cup encounter, and it's a match which will prove whether his team of talented individuals retain a trophy housed in Wellington since 2003.

It will also give an indication of whether this team is in decline or not.

Pressure? Yes, you could say that. Leaving aside the World Cup for a moment, and the thought of that looming defence of the William Webb Ellis Cup may be playing a part in the underwhelming performances of Hansen's men this year, this test before what will be a sell-out Eden Park is a special occasion for many reasons.

Advertisement

Four years ago the All Blacks were in a similar position of having to win at Eden Park after losing Bledisloe 1 and they responded with a comfortable victory in what was Dan Carter's final test at home; one of many highlights enjoyed by perhaps the best ever first-five to have played the game.

All Blacks coaching staff, from left, Gilbert Enoka, Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Scott McLeod arriving for the team training run at Alexandra Park, Auckland. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
All Blacks coaching staff, from left, Gilbert Enoka, Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Scott McLeod arriving for the team training run at Alexandra Park, Auckland. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Similarly, this is a test Hansen will not forget in a hurry – win or lose. Not that he has dwelled on his milestone after eight years in charge. "I haven't even thought about it," he said. "They're all special."

Extra special if the All Blacks respond to last week's record drubbing in Perth, though?

"They're all special when you win, of course they are. It's a privilege of being given the honour of being head coach of the All Blacks, even if it's only for one test.

"It's no different to a player. You strive to being the best you can be and if you play one test match, well that's better than the bloke who played none, isn't it. And if you hang around for long enough and you do your job properly you get to stay there as a player and it's the same as a coach. Every test match we play – I'm not big on milestones, I think let's enjoy it for what it is.

"This is an exciting one because there's a lot on it. That's why the're called test matches, they're going to test our resolve to step up to the plate and we'll learn a lot out of it and march on to the next occasion."

There were various conclusions reached after Hansen's 17-minute well-attended press conference at the team's Auckland hotel this week. Grumpy, spiky, a bit on edge, were common observations as to his demeanor.

He was occasionally short, particularly when an Australian journalist asked how he was feeling about Australia taking home the Bledisloe Cup – "I don't know if it's in Australia yet", he replied – but he showed his usual patience, even when the questions led him down such interrogational cul de sacs as which All Blacks would be playing provincial rugby in the near future.

Advertisement
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

And it's an approach he will be expecting of his players: professional, business-like, direct. They haven't suddenly become poor players, they just haven't been playing very well. It's clear their attitude wasn't right at Optus Stadium which was curious but the reality is the game was in the balance when Scott Barrett was sent off and the result a virtual foregone conclusion once he was.

Can the Wallabies reach that level of performance again at a place they haven't won since 1986? Possibly. Will the All Blacks play as poorly again? It's doubtful.

"I'm loving it," Hansen said about the position in which he and his team find themselves.

"This is the best challenge we could get prior to going to a World Cup. We're going to get asked some questions about ourselves. We didn't front up last week and we need to front up this week or it [Cup] will be going back to Australia."

Hooker Codie Taylor said: "It's another test for us. As All Blacks, we've got to front up every week otherwise you end up with media rooms like this - it's full. We can't get too caught up in the moment, we just have to play good footy. We'll know after 80 minutes or whatever it takes that we've done the job if we lift that trophy."

"Steve being Steve, he hasn't mentioned it," fullback Beauden Barrett said of Hansen's century milestone. "He's reasonably calm and going through his processes to get us ready. With Steve being himself, the team comes first."