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All Blacks chase improvement in Auckland

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Lynn McConnell     21 Aug 2018     Getty Images

The All Blacks had plenty to work on as well and their inability to dominate play from the set-piece platform was a particular issue of concern.

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Halfback Aaron Smith said he expected the second Test would be tougher than the first. It would be another exciting game and it was good to be playing at home although it would still be a massive challenge.

"It just starts again. We could take a lot of positives from the weekend but there were heaps of learnings and opportunities for us to get better and that's what we're really focusing on after a review this morning.

"We just want to improve our game, get it to a standard where we want to be but I think you just have to look at our set piece attack. It was pretty average and we got nothing off that," he said.

There would be a chance to fix that this week and a few of the side were keen to make it a lot better.

"Something we pride ourselves on has always been our set piece attack but credit to Australia to be able to defend and show different pictures."

Fullback Ben Smith said they know Australia would have learnt a lot from the weekend.

"So have we. We learnt from the review today that we missed quite a few opportunities. I think it's pretty exciting this week that we can fix up quite a lot of those. I'm sure they'll go away and do the same thing so that's what makes the second Test so interesting," he said.

Aaron Smith said in the first 30 minutes in Sydney the Australians were very dominant and very much 'up for it' physically and mentally and had been able to put the All Blacks under a lot of pressure. In the process of sorting each other out in the first 20 minutes of the first Test of a campaign the All Blacks felt the energy levels and intensity in the Australians' approach.
It was good that the All Blacks had been able to deal with that and defend very well and there had been 'an awesome improvement from the June series'. At the same time they had leaked a try at the end and that was something the All Blacks shouldn't do.

"We all want to be better in those areas and not let them in so easily," he said.

While Australia had nearly turned things around after a first Test thrashing last year the All Blacks were mindful of that, and buoyed by the opportunities they learned they'd missed when going through the review process on Monday morning.

Responding to former England and British & Irish Lion Jeremy Guscott's observation that the All Blacks looked to be enjoying themselves the way they were playing in Sydney, Aaron Smith said it came down to how big the game was.

"It's a very big game, it's a very nerve-wracking game because you've got so many weeks to get ready for it and it's hard not to think about it. Once you finish Super Rugby you just want to be named and then if you get a chance to play in Bled One it's massive, it's in Sydney, it means so much to us.

"I think you saw on Saturday how much it means to us to get a chance to maybe win it [the Bledisloe Cup] this week. It was so awesome, the first 30 was really hard and then we started getting into our work and it was just a really good feeling. Some of the tries we scored were pretty amazing and you can't help but get a little bit excited," he said.

Ben Smith he shared the feeling that the game couldn't come round quick enough.

"Enjoyment is why we play the game so we can get out there and execute our skills and Saturday night was an opportunity to do that. As you saw, a lot of the boys were enjoying their footy and I think probably enjoying that first half as well with that tight tussle and that's part of Test match footy, it's tough," he said.