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World record chance has brought dead rubber to life

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Lynn McConnell     20 Oct 2016     Getty Images

The third Bledisloe Cup Test, presented by American Express, could see the All Blacks achieve 18 consecutive Test victories, the most among Tier One nations.

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In recent years the side has gone close, being stopped in 2014 by Australia with a draw in the key game. The record is shared by that side and the 1967 All Blacks and the Springboks of 1997-98.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said there was a difference this time around for the side in their quest to achieve the feat.

Once a tilt at the world record was embraced by the side, it became a challenge and the side had shown it liked challenges, especially big ones, which no-one had ever done.

"We've got two choices, we can try to ignore and then enjoy it if it happens or we can say 'this is an opportunity'. And we've chosen to say, 'Yep, it is an opportunity. It is there right in front of us, what are we going to do about it?'

"Obviously Australia are going to have something to say about it but we've got something to say about it too and if we go out there and prepare the best we have and can, and then go and play the best we can, and if we can, if we're good enough we'll win and if we're not good enough then we have to accept that and work out where we went wrong," he said.
The difference from previous lost opportunities was that they had acknowledged the chance to themselves, and that was what they learnt from winning Rugby World Cups. It had been like acknowledging there was constant pressure on the All Blacks and reducing the pressure because of that. Going to the World Cup they had said out loud to themselves that was what they had wanted to achieve and that became easier.

Hansen repeated his comment that the 1967 team was probably the greatest All Blacks side and it was humbling to have a chance to break their record. He didn't think it was possible to compare different eras because the game was different but there were some great successes and some great history and it was that history that was one of the things that drove his side.

The 1967 side was so impressive because of the players and the style of game they played, he said.

"If you think back, and whilst it's hard to compare, you think back to some of those players I think they would suit playing Super Rugby today. That team had forwards who could carry the ball right up into the front row and they are probably the team that said to New Zealand rugby, 'Hey this is not a bad way to play, we need our forwards to be able to carry'.



"Whenever All Black teams have forwards who can carry the ball constructively and who can pass and catch they're a very good team. When we've had periods when haven't been so successful probably our skill level in the forward pack hasn't been as high as some of the others," he said.

"That team had some very good ball players up front and they were great athletes and I think they could have fitted into today's game real easy. And they were well coached by probably our best ever coach [Fred Allen]."

Hansen said the choice of Matt Todd at flanker for Saturday had to do with the fact that Sam Cane hadn't had any match play, which he will have on Friday for Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup semi-final with Otago, and the difference that Ardie Savea could make off the bench in the game.

With the northern tour coming up that would allow Cane to hit Chicago and the Test against Ireland in better shape.

Hansen said Savea was good enough to start but he had better qualities coming off the bench than Todd.

"At some point in his career Ardie is going to start putting some real pressure on being a starter but it's his first year and he's learning about how to be an All Black and he's learning to play at this level for 80 minutes with the physicality that we need him to do. It's not always that easy to do that."

Australia would be looking to upset New Zealand's hopes and would be coming at the All Blacks.

"We've just got to make it tough for them to do that. We've got to come at them as well. They're an improved side I think and when you go through their team player by player, they are quality players. I think they've improved a lot from when we played them."

They had grown in stature and their game had changed, their lineout ball was a lot better so they had a better platform. Hansen was expecting Australia to bulk up their mid-field to get some go-forward ball which they had lacked in the first two Tests against the All Blacks.

"If they can get that then they are going to put us under pressure," he said.

The All Blacks would need to ensure Australia's set-piece ball was untidy and make it tough for them.

Australia will be without their quality halfback Will Genia who had been coming back to some of the form that saw him rated the best in the world around the time of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

"They will miss him but [Nick] Phipps is going to get an opportunity and he'll be excited by that so that makes him a dangerous player," he said.