No nonsense New Zealand coach Steve Hansen and his All Black troops have no intention of underestimating the Wallabies and having their heads turned by flattering words from his Australian counterpart Michael Cheika, heading into Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider.
Cheika is preparing to lead the Wallabies against the All Blacks for the first time at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
Hansen has noted Cheika’s emphasis on physicality and is bracing for a brutal battle with a Wallabies side who haven’t beaten New Zealand in four years and 10 games.
“So far this season, they have talked a lot about physicality and needing to bring that and I’m sure they will front up on Saturday with lots of it,” Hansen said.
“They’ve got a talented team and I’ve been here for a wee while now and there’s never been a poor Australian side and this one isn’t one, either.
“He (Cheika) has been very complimentary about how good we’re going, so I think he must think that we’re going to turn up feeling like it’s a cakewalk, which is not the case.
“There’s a lot of respect for Australian rugby in our team and we know it will be a tough battle.”
Cheika has every right to praise New Zealand, who have lost just two out of 45 Tests since winning the last World Cup.
Hansen said complacency would only be an issue for the All Blacks if they allowed their standards to drop.
“This group is working really hard at the moment and they certainly don’t underestimate who we’re playing,” Hansen said.
“We’ve got a pretty motivated group at the moment.
“World Cup selection is coming up as well so there’s a little extra twist in the tail, so I don’t think complacency will be a problem.”
Hansen is keeping his troops on their toes in the lead-up to next month’s World Cup in Britain, making six personnel changes from the run-on side who began the 27-20 win over South Africa in Johannesburg.
Quick stepping Hurricanes winger Nehe Milner-Skudder will earn his first Test cap.
Coming back into the side are five-eighth Dan Carter, lock Luke Romano, blindside flanker Jerome Kaino, centre Sonny Bill Williams and winger Julian Savea, while Ben Smith shifts from wing to fullback.
“It gives us another opportunity to play and improve our game for the Rugby World Cup so, from that point of view, it’s important – but it’s massively important in its own right,” Hansen said.
“We’re playing for the Rugby Championship, the first leg of the Bledisloe, so that makes it a big enough occasion in itself.”
All Blacks: Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Luke Romano, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Res: Codie Taylor, Ben Franks, Nepo Laulala, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.