All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has moved to turn up heat on the Wallabies, saying their victory in Sydney has increased the burden of expectation on them.
Australia’s 27-19 win last weekend has given them one hand on the Bledisloe Cup, the trophy they haven’t lifted since 2002.
They get that chance at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday night against a hurting All Blacks side.
“Whilst everyone is saying we’re under pressure, I think Australia now have put themselves in a place where people have high expectations of them,” Hansen said.
“With that comes pressure, too. It’s one of those great Test matches. We’re going to find out who has the steel and who hasn’t.”
The All Blacks haven’t lost twice in a row since before the 2011 World Cup and Hansen says there is a keener atmosphere in the camp this week.
“You can feel there’s a bit more edge.
“Whilst you want to learn from winning, there’s no doubt losing hurts a hell of a lot more than winning does and you look deeper within yourself.”
The All Blacks have made three changes to their starting 15, the most notable being the inclusion of Victor Vito on the blindside flank replacing Jerome Kaino.
At inside centre, Ma’a Nonu returns from a shoulder niggle for the injured Sonny Bill Williams, while lock Sam Whitelock is promoted from the bench for Luke Romano.
The 28-year-old Vito, who had a fine Super Rugby season at No.8 for the Hurricanes, has made one Test appearance this year off the bench.
Hansen said what the selectors wanted from Vito was the same as what they wanted from the rest of the team.
“We need a heck of a lot more intensity and purpose about what we’re doing and a lot better execution than we have probably had in the last two Test matches, but particularly the last one,” he said.
The selection was also with the World Cup in mind, with Vito, 16 of whose 27 Tests have been off the bench, being given a starting opportunity in the All Blacks’ last outing before the tournament.
So, too, was putting Kaino on the bench as locking cover.
“We feel our lineout is particularly strong, so again looking to the future,” Hansen said.
“Is it something we can do in the future carrying, against certain teams, a loose forward who can play lock?”
Hansen said there was no question over Kaino’s scrummaging ability at lock.
“But getting specific to Saturday night’s game, it gives us more mobility, too, late in the piece.”
The Eden Park showdown will bring up a milestone for skipper Richie McCaw – a world record 142nd Test appearance, taking him past Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll for most capped players.
McCaw will have two other centurions with him in prop Tony woodcock (114) and five-eighth Dan Carter (105), helping to make it the most experienced All Blacks starting side with a total 966 caps.
All Blacks: Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Victor Vito, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Res: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Colin Slade, Malakai Fekitoa.