All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has resisted the chance to attack the Wallabies while they’re down, believing they’ll be desperate opponents in the Rugby Championship.
While the All Blacks moved through the gears in a 3-0 sweep of Wales, Australia succumbed by the same margin in their series against England.
It points to a repeat of the World Cup final result at Twickenham nine months ago when the teams meet for the first time since in Sydney on August 20.
However, Hansen says the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup opener will be harder than most commentators believe, pointing to a likely Australian backlash to criticism of their efforts against England.
He reckons the Wallabies haven’t been far off the pace in any of the three Tests.
“I think they’ve fronted up. It’s a good England side but the bounce of the ball just hasn’t gone their way,” Hansen said.
“They’re a good side so it will be very foolish of us to under-estimate them. And they’ll be determined now, they’ll be hungry.”
Hansen took a swipe last week at Wallabies counterpart Michael Cheika, for letting England coach Eddie Jones “bully” him in the mind games stakes during the series.
However, he has no doubt Australia’s mindset will be in the right place for the treasured trans-Tasman series.
“Australia will still think they can beat us, but that’s the nature of the beast with Australia,” he said.
Before naming a Rugby Championship squad of 32, Hansen will keep his fingers crossed during the closing six weeks of Super Rugby.
He says the high-stakes nature of the remaining games is both a blessing and a curse.
“We’ll see how people cope with it mentally. The hard rugby will be good because you get lots of answers about them at this time of year,” he said.
However, injuries were a constant worry, he said, particularly in the at-times brutal New Zealand derbies.