The countdown to the clash of Ireland and New Zealand on Sunday in the Aviva Stadium is well and truly on.
All Blacks coach, Steve Hansen has given his pre match press conference ahead of Sunday’s kick off, playing down talk of a walk over against Joe Schmidts men.
Victory for the World Champions in Dublin will see them finish 2013 un-beaten and Hansen says there is a real excitement in his squad about playing Ireland.
“There’s excitement about the opportunity and there’s a lot of the guys who haven’t been to Ireland before looking forward to taking part in a game that’s going to be fantastic.” Hansen said.
Despite coming to Dublin on the back of wins against England and France on their European Tour, Hansen has still to be convinced by an All Black performance.
He says that although finishing the year without loss would be the perfect result, he wants to see a performance worth boasting.
“The real focus is getting a performance we can be proud of and it’s something we started at the beginning of the year that we wanted to take each game as it came.”
“We haven’t been that satisfied with either the English or the French games on how we played so the whole focus this week has been on preparing really well so we can go out and perform at a standard we could be proud of.” Hansen said.
Last year, the ‘Mighty All Black’s’ fell at the final hurdle against England in Twickenham which was a result that hurt their squad.
Media in New Zealand have been contemplating whether they might choke at the last hurdle again against an Irish side, hurting after their loss to Australia last weekend.
Something that will also be fresh in the Irish mind set was the demolition of last summer under Declan Kidney.
Hansen says he isn’t at all concerned about how the Irish are feeling and says lessons have been learned from last year’s defeat in London.
“For me, it’s about how we feel.” Hansen said.
He added, “We learned some valuable lessons as you always do from our last northern campaign, I think we have most of those issues right, however we will see that for sure on Sunday.”
“We have a team that’s in a fresh state and as I’ve said, there is a genuine excitement about playing this game and it’s a real contrast to what we had this time last year.”
For well over a hundred years, Ireland have tired and not succeeded in beating New Zealand.
Hansen doesn’t see any added pressure in attempting to avoid being the first All Blacks side to lose to the Irish.
He said, “You have to understand that there is an amazing amount of pressure on this team all the time, not only is there an expectation that they win but they have to play really well and that’s just from
Hansen added, “We wouldn’t have it any other way but their expectations force us to go higher with ours, you have to embrace pressure, otherwise it will overcome you and control you and we don’t
want to be controlled by pressure.”