All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has demanded an improved performance, particularly from his forward pack, following their record defeat by the Australians in Perth last weekend.
Hansen says he is relishing the challenge faced by his team for the Bledisloe Cup decider against the Wallabies in Auckland.
‘We didn’t front up last week and we need to do so this week or the trophy will be heading back to Australia,’ commented Hansen after naming his side to play at Eden Park this Saturday.
Hansen singled out Sam Whitelock to deliver on the leadership front, while he was unequivocal when asked what sort of all-round improvement he was looking for: ‘200%. I need Sam to lead. He’s the big boy in the pack with over 100 Tests, you expect those guys to lead.’
Having omitted experienced wings Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane in favour of Sevu Reece and George Bridge, Hansen said that the two regular starters had been dropped after their respective performances at the weekend.
‘We’ve got two new exciting wingers that we need to see play. Whilst Rieko and Ben Smith are world-class players, we think these boys [Reece and Bridge] are capable of being world-class players too.’
‘They’re very confident young men and they believe in themselves. They’ve come off a good season with the Crusaders and are in good form. Both have played well when given the opportunity with us, so we just want to see a bit more of it.’
Also missing from the squad this week is 108-cap prop Owen Franks, who has been replaced by Chiefs tighthead Nepo Laulala.
‘We want to have a look at Nepo. We know what Owen can do, and that’s a good contest between those two. So we need to see what he can do and I feel that he is capable of a top performance.’ said Hansen.
The All Blacks management team will be hoping that the players brought in will deliver in what is expected to be a tense battle against the confident Australians.
‘It’s always great playing in New Zealand, particularly at Eden Park. We get fantastic support throughout the world but there’s no better support than our fans here in New Zealand. We look forward to hearing them and giving them a performance to be proud of.’