Bledisloe Cup win first goal for All Blacks

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Lynn McConnell     07 Aug 2018     Getty Images

Coach Steven Hansen said when announcing his squad for the series that the Bledisloe Cup was second to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand's thinking. It was something they held dear to their hearts and the Australians were keen to get their hands on it.

"Having beaten us last time they played they'll be pretty confident about doing that," he said.
The first two games of the Championship would be good contests and would help establish where the Cup went this season.

Hansen said it had been a tough team to pick as a result of the talent available in New Zealand at the moment. That resulted in two things: some good players missed selection while it allowed no room for complacenecy among those selected.

In explaining what he termed 'strategic choices' in the loose forwards and midfield, Hansen said they wanted Ngani Laumape to work on his ability to help the first five-eighths control the game in a less heightened atmosphere, although he would work with the All Blacks until Sonny Bill Williams had recovered from his injury.

Blindside flanker Vaea Fifita needed game time in his position which the selectors felt he was best suited to.

"He hasn't played much there over the last two years being used mainly as a lock by the Hurricanes. He's a little bit down on his confidence so he's going to go back and play some big minutes for Wellington and both of those boys we'll probably see them in the end of year tour," he said.

Highlander Jackson Hemopo had been selected as a loose forward and would not be used as cover at lock unless the side was desperate.

Having used 54 players last year to build depth, the plan was to grow their game in 2018, not only in decision-making and skill execution but also in the style they want to play.

Some of that thinking had been seen in the three Tests against France but that wasn't enough time to embed the plans and the Rugby Championship would give the team a chance to do that, Hansen said.

"We also want to build the player combos [combinations] within that and allow ourselves to get really set with good understanding of each other and how we want to play for the Rugby World Cup," he said.

The Championship would be a challenge as South Africa and Australia had both stepped up two or three notches during the June series and had played with passion, conviction and intensity and they would come in with a mindset of knocking the All Blacks off.

"We're going to have to meet that head on otherwise we're going to struggle," he said.

Argentina would be a new challenge because they had new coaches and the All Blacks would have to adjust and adapt to that.