All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in Auckland on Thursday. Saturday’s match will be his 100th Test in charge of New Zealand. Picture: Getty Images
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in Auckland on Thursday. Saturday’s match will be his 100th Test in charge of New Zealand. Picture: Getty Images

Kiwis fear Wallabies have their measure

NOT only have the Wallabies gone winless at Eden Park since 1986, they've not won a game against the All Blacks anywhere in New Zealand since 2011.

That's 22 straight losses across the Tasman, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes none of that history will mentally cripple the Wallabies as they attempt to wrestle back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 17 years on Saturday.

"I've never met an Aussie with self-doubt," Hansen said.

"If you can introduce me to one I'd like to meet him."

The All Blacks aren't big on self-doubt either.

But the furnace facing Hansen this week is uncharted territory.

This will be his 100th Test match in charge of New Zealand - he's lost just nine games in eight years at the helm - yet in front of a packed media conference on Thursday, Hansen was forced to defend his big selection shake-ups, address the team's attitude and explain his tactics.

That's because the Kiwis have  won only two of their past five games, and last week suffered a record 47-26 loss to Australia in Perth, setting up a monumental showdown for the trophy Australia gave up in 2003.

"It's a helpful thing when they've just punched you in the nose," Hansen said.

"Do we know what we're going to get? Yeah.

"Do we have to front up? Yeah.

"They've got one hand on the Cup, and we've got to take it off it."

Sevu Reece has been called up for the All Blacks. Picture: Getty Images
Sevu Reece has been called up for the All Blacks. Picture: Getty Images

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika does not want his players to shy away from the fact no Australian team has beaten the Kiwis in Auckland in 33 years.

"There's no point hiding from it," he said.

"We know it's a big challenge, but if you want to make change, one person's got to start to say 'OK, this is going to change'.

"Then the next person will join him, and the next person will join him.

"You're allowed to understand the history of the event, the game, the trophy and the venue to make it ultra-important and not be worried about it.

"If you call that the pressure of the event, the way I see it, it's a privilege."

New Zealand's imposing record at home has given some fans confidence that the form dip is temporary and the "real" All Blacks will emerge on Saturday to restore world order with a savage thrashing.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says the chance for the Wallabies to end their Eden Park hoodoo is a privilege. Picture: AAP
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says the chance for the Wallabies to end their Eden Park hoodoo is a privilege. Picture: AAP

But a growing number of Kiwis have lit up talkback radio and online forums fearing the sudden decline of an ageing All Blacks team one month before the World Cup.

Hansen's shock call to axe veterans Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane and Owen Franks and replace them with novices Sevu Reece, George Bridge and Nepo Laulala has divided the nation.

"We need to find out if these three players can step up to the plate under the biggest pressure, and you don't get much bigger than this one," Hansen said.

"What happens if it gets to the World Cup and Ben Smith blows a tyre or Rieko blows a hamstring and we've got to put some young guy in there who's never faced pressure like this before?

"It's ideal. This is the best game we could have asked for.

"I'm loving it. This is the best challenge we could get prior to going to a World Cup. We're going to get asked some questions about ourselves. We didn't front up last week; we need to front up this week or (the Bledisloe Cup) will be going back to Australia."

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News Corp Australia


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