All Blacks' Hamilton mission to turn up heat

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014
Steven Hansen, Ian Foster
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PLOTTING: All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen talks to his assistant Ian Foster at training in Hamilton yesterday.

All Blacks upping the ante

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Complacency? Don't count on it.

With only two tests to come against England before next year's World Cup the All Blacks realise the importance of inflicting further mental scars on a genuine title contender.

The final test in Hamilton this weekend presents a chance for Steve Hansen's men to shift into top gear. The more time together the better they've gelled; that's the concern for the tourists.

For a brief 22-minute period in Dunedin, when the All Blacks ran in three tries to secure the series, the English saw what they were up against.

Otherwise, though, the All Blacks haven't been overly pleased. Only when they put together a complete performance are they fully satisfied.

That's the collective aim at Waikato Stadium; keep England under the pump from start to finish. Let them stew on a series sweep until the November meeting at Twickenham. Self doubt is a detrimental emotion.

"That's part of it," All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said. "They won't have too many games between now and our next game. We have a few so we'll probably change a lot and they'll be watching that."

These motivations, along with the prospect of equalling the major nation's world record of 17 successive test wins, will ensure there's no sense of ease this week.

The All Blacks know if they're only slightly off their game, the English will expose them. Such a confidence boost cannot be afforded.

"From the outside, people think we've won two so there's a danger of complacency," Foster said. "We're looking at the quality of our game and that proves there is no room for complacency. The first test wasn't up to scratch; the second we put some good blocks in place but it's really important we cement those gains and walk away with a confidence in the direction we're going.

"That's our primary driver so I guarantee there'll be no complacency. They're the only team to beat us the last couple of years so clearly they've had that ability in the past."

For all the progress he's made with this emerging group, England coach Stuart Lancaster must be frustrated.

At Eden Park the visitors succeeded in slowing the game at the set-piece and breakdown, only to lose in the dying stages. Under the roof in Dunedin they attempted to match the All Blacks power and pace, only to be blown away in the third quarter.

Emulating a similar up-tempo style must be applauded, but as South Africa discovered in the Ellis Park epic last year, it's fraught with danger. More often than not expansive rugby plays into the All Blacks' hands.

"England are trying to find multiple threats across the park. That's very similar to what we're doing," Foster said.

"They're not trying to play that way just to beat us. They're trying to evolve a style that suits their playing group and they're going well with it.

"That's complex. It can expose you at times. It's taken us a long time to get to this point and we're still nowhere near where we should be. Every team has to decide on their mode.

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"It's not easy walking all the way through our forwards either. If you slow it down and try to go old school we've shown we've got the ability to fight well in that situation."

In a nutshell, that's the predicament facing Lancaster and, indeed, world rugby.

- Stuff

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