Finals mentality for the All Blacks

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In the closest finale possible, the All Blacks and South Africa share the top of the points table, with the New Zealanders slightly ahead on points differential.

 

To claim the Championship, the All Blacks need to win first, preferably with a bonus point, before setting a target the Springboks will need to achieve in their Test against Argentina.

 

Little wonder that assistant All Blacks coach Jason Ryan said comments the Test was a dead rubber were off the mark.

 

"I don't know where that's come from. It's a New Zealand-Australia Test match at Eden Park. There's a lot on the line, and we're treating it as a final. We've prepared accordingly to expect that."

 

Surveying the 39-37 win last week between the sides, Ryan said: "We need intensity for a little longer. We had periods where we were on and periods where we were off. It's making sure we've got that consistency in our habits - that is a big one for the pack.

 

"It's a mix between mindset and skill set execution. You always have periods with different pressure cycles, but we can be better in the area of keeping the pressure on."

 

 

No.8 Ardie Savea's return from paternity leave would be a boost in that area. Ryan said, "We get a lot of energy off him, and having that week off will have freshened him up. He'll be sharp and rearing to go."

 

Countering the Australia loose forwards will be a challenge, even without the injured Rob Leota.

 

Ryan was impressed with their work rate and athleticism in Melbourne.

 

"I thought [Rob] Valentini was huge for them and Pete Samu as well as a ball-carrier. They've got athletes that can give you good variation, and their contact work and leg drive in the carry was good.

 

"There's good variation around their lineout which is not really a surprise but the breakdown becomes a big area in getting quick ball."

 

The All Blacks were unsettled when losing captain Sam Cane 22 minutes into the contest, and his replacement Dalton Papali'i was sin-binned soon after arrival. As a result, Ryan felt the New Zealand unit 'had their moments.'

 

"There were times we had good intensity in that area and times we could have been better."

 

Blindside flanker Shannon Frizell also needed to get through Thursday training - after a rib injury - to be considered at blindside flanker. If fit, the selectors would then have to consider how to utilise Scott Barrett.

 

Ryan said he regarded Barrett as the best performing All Blacks forward.

 

"He's been outstanding in every role, and is a huge part of our forward pack. He's playing some really good rugby, he's been consistent, and that's followed on from his Super Rugby season and he's hit the All Blacks running and been a pivotal part of our forward pack."

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