No secret to All Blacks success - Israel Dagg
MARC HINTON IN WELLINGTON
Warning: You might not want to read on if you are a Wallabies fan.
Fullback Israel Dagg, on the eve of the Bledisloe Cup rematch in Wellington, has given an insight into the motivation that continues to drive these All Blacks to reach great heights.
The All Blacks started the new Rugby Championship campaign in spectacular fashion in Sydney last week, crushing the Wallabies 47-29 to put one hand on what would be an 11th consecutive Bledisloe Cup series success.
The Australians have not held the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy since 2002 and have not beaten the All Blacks on Kiwi soil in 12 years.
If Dagg's mindset is any guide, that wait is set to drag on for a while yet.
"In New Zealand, rugby is quite high up and if you lose it's the end of the world," Dagg said in Wellington today.
"I hate losing. I just want to do my best, and I guess everyone around here is the same.
"The Bledisloe means so much to us, and I guess it means so much to Australia. That's why it's such a big contest. We just don't want to be that team that loses it."
The 25-year-old fullback was asked what made him confident of continued success against the Wallabies, and his response indicated that the All Blacks had very much left their Sydney performance behind them.
"Each week is new," he said. "You've got to have the confidence you can do the job, but you don't want to be too over-confident.
"It's about keeping our feet on the ground. What happened in the past has happened and it doesn't count for anything on Saturday.
"Our preparation has got to be top notch mentally. It was pretty fast and physical last week, so it's about getting bodies right.
"We've got a few new players too, so we've got to help them reintegrate into the systems."
Dagg's view was supported by in-form wing Ben Smith, fresh from a stunning hat-trick of tries in Sydney.
"Last week was last week and we're looking to get our preparation right this week," Smith said.
"It's been a good week, and we've just been getting everything clear, learning from our mistakes last weekend and looking forward to getting out there on Saturday."
Smith expects a vastly improved performance from the Wallabies back three of Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau and James O'Connor, who have been given another chance to show their class.
"I think they'll be a wee bit more accurate with their kicking," said Smith, who is fast becoming a key man in the All Blacks line-up.
"We managed to put a wee bit more pressure on them there. They might have a bit more variety with their general kicking.
"They probably just needed a wee bit more time together, and this week they'll be a lot better with their combination."
Dagg, who will earn his 30th test cap tomorrow night, also offered a reassuring assessment on the prospects of debutant and replacement first five-eighth Tom Taylor, a team-mate at the Crusaders.
"He's obviously a sharpshooter with his goalkicking, and that's pretty vital for us," Dagg said of the 24-year-old son of World Cup-winning All Blacks midfielder Warwick Taylor. "Now with those opportunities we get, he's pretty good at that. And with his running game, he's got great vision, great instincts and just backs himself.
"It's important for guys like Ma'a [Nonu] and Conrad [Smith] to get in behind Tom and make him feel comfortable. It's a Bledisloe decider and she can be pretty daunting.
"I'm just getting in behind Tom and telling him to be himself.
"He's here because he's a quality player and he shouldn't worry about anything else but going out and doing his job. And I've told him it will fly by, so make the most of it."
Dagg, too, is expecting something a little more organised and a little more threatening from that Wallabies' back three, who were off their game last week.
"I expect them to get the ball in their hands a lot more than last week," he said.
"I'm sure they're going to be a lot hungrier and will be looking for that ball. I'm predicting they might put a few bombs up and a few cross-kicks for Folau as well.
"You've just got to expect anything really, and if they put those kicks up, you've got to get up and contest the ball and be brave."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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