All Blacks still have their 'edge'
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen says his side have not lost their edge despite having an extended break at the Rugby World Cup, and is confident there will be no complacency when they face bogey team Ireland in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
The All Blacks have not played since their 71-9 victory over Namibia on October 6 – due to their final pool match against Italy being cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.
Hansen’s side had an 11-day gap between their tournament opener against South Africa and their second match against Canada, which they won 63-0, and there have been concerns in New Zealand that they might be underdone for Ireland.
However, Hansen said they had replicated match conditions at an intense training session last week and the players were ready to go.
“Having a week off is not a bad thing. It’s allowed us to work really hard [last] Friday,” Hansen said.
“Our GPS numbers were equivalent or just above what a normal test match would be so we don’t feel like we’ve lost any opportunity to get ourselves where we need to be.
“We know who we’re playing. They’re a quality side, they’ve been number one this year. The last three results [against Ireland] are ‘loss, win, loss’ so there won’t be any complacency in our camp.”
Complacency was considered an issue at the 2007 World Cup when the All Blacks romped through their pool and faced a French side that had barely qualified for the knockout phase.
Lock Keith Robinson was selected for that quarterfinal as he battled his way back from a calf injury with then coach Graham Henry stating it was important he got some game time before the semi-final or final.
France went on to deliver a remarkable 20-18 victory in Cardiff, handing the All Blacks their worst finish at a World Cup.
In Japan, the All Blacks were not stretched by Canada or Namibia, while the cancellation of the Italy game meant lock Brodie Retallick was unable to get minutes into his legs as he returned from a shoulder injury.
Assistant coach Ian Foster said the All Blacks were taking nothing for granted.
“The concentration is huge, the focus on the detail is huge,” he said.
“This is the type of week we’ve been preparing for a long, long time. We simulate it, we have a lot of big tests and we know everyone comes for us every time we play.
“This is where you really test yourself against a great team on the big stage.”