All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has challenged his players not to get sidetracked by their pursuit of a perfect year and concentrate purely on the business of beating Ireland in Dublin next Sunday.
World champions New Zealand stretched their unbeaten record for the year to 13 wins from 13 when they overcame England at Twickenham on Saturday and can close out their season with a 100% record if they can dispatch the Irish at the Aviva Stadium.
Hansen, though, is wary that his all-conquering side could fall into the trap of putting the cart before the horse as they get within touching distance of legendary status.
“We have to be very, very careful that we don’t get ahead of ourselves,” Hansen said yesterday as the All Blacks prepared to leave London for Dublin. “The big challenge for us is not to get focused on the outcome. If we start talking about the outcome and thinking about that, then we will drop the ball.
“It’s got to be business as usual, we need to pick the right team, pick people who have got energy and are ready to go and then prepare as well as we possibly can. If we do that then we know we have got the talent to get the outcome that we all want.
“We need to make sure we keep our feet on the ground. The job’s not done just because we have beaten England, we have got one more Test to go and we need to really prepare well for the Irish, both physically and mentally.”
Back-row star Liam Messam reiterated his coach’s wishes and despite the point proven in avenging last season’s defeat at Twickenham, New Zealand’s only defeat since winning the 2011 World Cup on home soil, promised the All Blacks would be fully focused on preparing correctly for the Ireland Test.
“It’s a big thing for us,” Messam said. “It’s about making sure we get the week right again. We know as a group how important it is to get your preparation right and that starts today [yesterday] with recovery.
“We were very happy with the win last night, but we know the job’s not done yet.”
Messam spoke of the satisfaction within the team at the way they stepped up their game in the final quarter at Twickenham.
“The English came out strong, they have got some big ball carriers and we knew we had to take them front on and just get stuck into them.”
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