Long wait whets the ap­petite for show­down

Whanganui Chronicle - - Sport - Rugby Lynn McCon­nell

To­mor­row’s (4am NZT) All Blacks test with Eng­land may be their first in four years but that had only height­ened the an­tic­i­pa­tion for the Twick­en­ham con­test in a game for the Hil­lary Shield and also its con­nec­tion with the cen­te­nary of the end of the World War I.

Armistice Day, Novem­ber 11, is to­mor­row and the All Blacks will be com­mem­o­rat­ing the oc­ca­sion by wear­ing a poppy on their jer­seys re­mem­ber­ing the sac­ri­fice of all na­tions in­volved in a dis­as­trous con­flict that had changed fam­i­lies for­ever, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said, while also re­sult­ing in the loss of 13 All Blacks.

And the Hil­lary Shield, held by New Zealand, added to the oc­ca­sion and the mem­ory of one of the con­querors of Mt Ever­est, Sir Ed­mund Hil­lary, who had helped put the coun­try on the map.

Hansen, when asked if he would like to see the All Blacks play Eng­land more of­ten, said the main con­sid­er­a­tion was con­cern for play­ers but that some­times less was more and the an­tic­i­pa­tion around the test was due to the fact the sides hadn’t met for so long.

Hansen said the test was big­ger than last year’s British & Ir­ish Li­ons tour, be­cause that tour had made it big­ger.

The All Blacks weren’t suc­cess­ful and there had been a harder edge in the week’s prepa­ra­tion.

Games against reg­u­lar Rugby Cham­pi­onship op­po­nents meant there was less work to do to change the style you were ex­pected to meet in those con­tests and while the All Blacks hadn’t played Eng­land since 2014, they had seen them play a lot.

In the con­nected world to­day, there wasn’t much you could do with­out ev­ery­one else see­ing it.

“We’ve been watch­ing them for quite some time and been im­pressed by them but at the end of the day the pen­du­lum has to swing back to what you’re go­ing to do,” he said.

That in­cluded as­sess­ment of the op­po­si­tion’s strengths and weak­nesses and plans to deal with both.

“As long as you’ve got the abil­ity to adapt and ad­just in the heat of the bat­tle you’ve got a chance to come out the other side of it suc­cess­fully but from Tues­day on­wards all we’re fo­cus­ing on is our­selves and what we want to do within that plan and how we’re go­ing to ex­e­cute it and then as you get right down to the end of the week you just get ex­cited.

“[Sun­day’s] the fun part, you’ve done all the work. You just go out and trust your in­stincts and play,” he said.

Eng­land wouldn’t de­vi­ate much from their usual game, he ex­pected.

“They’ll play a phys­i­cal game up front, their kick­ing is pretty good, their aerial skills to sup­port that are good and they’ll look to wear you down. They won’t go away so if you don’t take your op­por­tu­ni­ties that come when you’ve got mo­men­tum then it’s go­ing to be a dogfight.

“If we are able to take all our op­por­tu­ni­ties when we have mo­men­tum and they don’t take theirs it could be a game that we could pos­si­bly win. But that’s test footy, you’ve got to make the most of the mo­ments you get given and we know we won’t have all of the mo­ments and they won’t have all of them ei­ther,” he said.

Prop Karl Tu’inukuafe, a new­comer to most English fans, had come a long way but he still had a long way to go, Hansen said.

“He’s got to un­der­stand that he’s not 170kg any­more, he’s ac­tu­ally 130kg and he’s a mo­bile, re­ally good ath­lete and it’s get­ting out of the habits that come with be­ing 170kg and he’s slowly get­ting there.

“It’s about get­ting some con­fi­dence and clar­ity about what he’s do­ing other than just the things he’s re­ally good.”

PHOTO / GETTY IM­AGES

All Blacks re­serve half­back TJ Per­e­nara runs with the ball dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion in Lon­don this week.

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