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Tough build-up best - Kelleher

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Sportal.co.nz     22 Jun 2006     Photosport

The All Blacks have just completed a series victory over Ireland but in strikingly different fashion to last year's 45-7 drubbing at Dublin.

Both matches in this series were competitive with the All Blacks, on both occasions, nabbing victory with late tries.

Kelleher said playing a much-improved Ireland side would have the effect of bolstering the All Blacks' Tri Nations defence.

"The Ireland sides over history, we have probably put 60, 70 or 80 points on them and I don't think that has been good for the All Blacks heading into the Tri Nations," he said.

"It's definitely tougher and we are trying players in different positions for depth. So I believe it's a good thing for us to play against tougher sides prior to Tri Nations."

Kelleher, who put in a convincing performance in the second Test, also praised the hard work of the All Blacks' forward pack and that encouraged him when looking ahead.

"I think that we have got a pretty good, strong squad at the moment and we have got some big grunty boys in the engine room and they were doing the work at scrum time," he said.

"I thrive on a scrum like that when we are on defence, I can really get in and hustle the No.8.

"I find that a strong point in my game and I'm just patting the boys on the back really and encouraging them in every scrum to make sure that we do the damage."

Kelleher said that while there was a tendency to think ahead to the Tri Nations he had remained focused only on the two Tests against Ireland.

"I was just concentrating on last week and this week," he said of the Irish matches.

"I wanted to get a good 80 minutes under my belt and I felt like I did that [in the second Test]."