All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen believes his all-conquering side cannot afford to let their standards slip at Soldier Field tomorrow if the world champions are to secure a 19th successive victory with a win over Ireland.
The Dublin near-miss by Joe Schmidt’s team in 2013 has not been forgotten by the New Zealand camp any more than Ryan Crotty’s 81st-minute try to rescue the All Blacks from defeat is seared into the consciousness of the Irish, with tomorrow’s starting full-back Ben Smith saying his side had learned a lot of lessons from that November day at the Aviva Stadium when Ireland led 22-7 at half-time but lost 24-22.
Hansen echoed that yesterday as he named his side for the sell-out game in Chicago, sending back rower Jerome Kaino into the second row to partner inexperienced Patrick Tuipulotu with regular locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick injured and Luke Romano forced to fly home on Tuesday following a family bereavement.
“You get put under pressure and it’s how you deal with the pressure that’s important,” Hansen said. “We know the game goes for 80, sometimes 85 minutes.
“If you concentrate on the process rather than the outcome, then we give ourselves a chance of being in it. We’ve got to start better than we did in Dublin a few years ago, because it was a poor start. I think we were 20 points behind at one stage.
“You’re asking a lot of the team to come back from that. If we start well and they start well, then there will be momentum shifts in the game. You don’t want to get too far behind on either side.
“We’ve got confidence in our bench, they’ve done a good job for us all year. We’ve got belief and confidence in ourselves that we’ll play for 80 minutes.”
Hansen outlined some of those lessons learned from 2013 cited by Smith.
“I don’t think there was any surprise. The end of the year, back then, was the first time we’d gone around Argentina and South Africa, learning a lot about how to handle that travel and how to keep guys fresh. It’s the same when the northern hemisphere guys come down south, that part of the year is always difficult if you don’t manage it right. You’ve got guys who are starting to think about packing their suitcases and going home, and that’s another thing we learnt.
“You’ve got to have your mind on the job. If you turn up and you’re 5% off your game, anyone can beat you.
“You’ve got to have your mind on the job and what’s happening right now. Because if you turn up and you’re 5% off your game, anyone can beat you. Ireland that day turned up to play, and we were probably 5% off, and as a result we struggled for the most of the game.”
All Blacks coach pays tribute to Anthony Foley
Hansen a took the opportunity yesterday to send his condolences to the family of late Munster head coach Anthony Foley, who died last month.
“We haven’t had the opportunity and we have the Irish people here, we’d like to convey a message of sympathy and best wishes to the Foley family on the death of Anthony.
“It was a tragedy and one that was felt right throughout the world, our thoughts and prayers are with them.
“I didn’t know him that well but when you’re in the game as long as we’ve been, we certainly knew he was a good player. The All Blacks played against him on a couple of occasions.
“His coaching, he’s coaching a Kiwi boy there and they’re good mates and there’s a lot of respect for him.”
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