Test match 'pretty special' for ABs
Braving the chill at All Blacks' training
A handful of spectators braved the cold to watch the All Blacks train at Linfield Park today for the test against Ireland on Saturday night.
Despite the weather, All Blacks manager Darren Shand said, the team had enjoyed a good week in Christchurch.
''About a third of the team are originally from here, so for us it's kind of nice to be home. We've missed out on that over the last couple of years.''
The test at AMI Stadium would be ''pretty special'' for the Canterbury players, Shand said.
''Not having the opportunity to play in front of their families for a couple of years ... I think it will mean a lot to a lot of them, especially given the year that we had last year.''
He said the stadium had a special atmosphere and the team was ''ready to go''.
Players brought back down to earth
Senior back Conrad Smith said the All Blacks coaches brought the players back down to earth after the big first-test win over Ireland and were demanding key improvements for Saturday's Christchurch match.
The All Blacks beat Ireland 42-10 at Eden Park last Saturday, but centre Smith said there were still "areas to improve''.
"The coaches have been pretty good about getting our feet back on the ground after that result. They've brought up two or three things they want us to do, [including] at the cleanout,'' he said.
"Defensively, we were still caught a little bit narrow. We scrambled pretty well. We just played with better energy, as you do for the first All Black test of the year.
"But we weren't always smart and accurate in what we were doing.
"Those are things that we are looking to improve.''
Smith, who will chalk up his 57th test appearance on Saturday, said the All Blacks' set-piece defence had been sound and they had not given Ireland much good ball to launch from.
Smith had respect for Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll, who he first got to know during the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour here.
Smith's midfield partner, Sonny Bill Williams, said the Irish skipper was "a triple threat''.
"He defends like a flanker, has the ball skills of a 10 and the running power of one of the strongest backs going around,'' he said.
"He's a great player. His longevity has proven that as well. When you play against guys like that you always want to perform.''
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