Hansen starts mind games with Eden Park hoodoo
ALL Blacks coach Steve Hansen has declared scars from the Wallabies’ 29-year winless hoodoo at Eden Park will eliminate any advantage they can take from Saturday’s win in Sydney.
Australia won the Rugby Championship trophy, jumped from fifth to third in world rankings, and notched their first victory over New Zealand since 2011 with a thrilling 27-19 triumph at ANZ Stadium.
But with an opportunity to take back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 13 years on Saturday in Auckland’s graveyard, Hansen said: “I don’t think it gives them too many mental advantages. If you look at the overall last 10 years, they’ve had their scars as well.”
Hansen suggested the Wallabies used illegal tactics to disrupt their ball at the breakdown, with Australia’s two starting openside specialists David Pocock and Michael Hooper winning key turnovers.
Asked if he would address the issue of Wallaby players standing at the fringe of the ruck, Hansen said: “You’d like to think that other people would deal with that.
“But it all starts with our ball carry. Are we carrying it into the right place? And then how urgent are we to support that player and then our body position?
“When you’ve got two guys like Pocock and Hooper, and then two weeks before that the two South African boys (Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brussow), who are really strong over the ball, it’s an area of the game we have to get better at.
“It’s the perfect time to be getting challenged, going into a World Cup.
“And we know it’s something we’ve not put a lot of work into so far this year because we’ve had other priorities, but it’s now become a pretty big focus.
“The breakdown, we’ve just got to be honest with ourselves; the last two games we’ve been tidied up there.
“We’ve got to win that space over the ball and underneath the bodies.
“We’ve got to look at what we’re doing prior to that too, without giving away what we are going to do, it’s certainly an area we need to fix.
“There was a lot of hesitation at times.”
With the Kiwis determined to pummel Pocock and Hooper out of the contest next weekend, Australia will need to produce their most intense display in years to finally end the losing streak at Eden Park, where All Blacks backrower Jerome Kaino said his side “grows another arm and leg”.
“We’ve got history on our side and we get a lot of confidence playing at home as well,” Kaino said.
“We just love playing there. It’s home for us, it’s home for me, and whenever we get to play at home and pull on the black jersey, guys just grow another arm and leg.
“We’ll get excited about that fact, and look forward to improving next week.”
The All Blacks have not lost two games in a row since 2011 – when they lost to South Africa and Australia, then went on to win the World Cup.