Hansen will look for balance in final All Blacks team of season

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James Mortimer     20 Nov 2013     Getty Images

Yet these All Blacks have, not for the first time, put themselves in a position where they may be able to close off the 2013 season, looking to complete 14 wins from 14 Tests.

First, a wounded Ireland waits after losing 32-15 to a Wallabies side that has encountered many of their own issues this year, a few of which were put to bed in what was one of the best Australian performances this season.

Coming off a big loss, and facing an opponent they have never beaten, will ensure that the Irish are primed for this match.

After all, they were well beaten 3-0 in the Steinlager Series last year and will relish a chance to put in a thorough display against the World Champions on home turf.

There will be hope, from an Irish perspective, that the All Blacks can be caught off guard.

A big part of that has been worked on studiously by Steve Hansen and the coaching team, with matches against Japan and France easing many players back into action, a plan to ensure the squad finishes with plenty of gas in the tank.

The coaches will earn their money this week simply by ensuring that the mental focus is as high as ever, for a very good season will be scarred if the All Blacks trip up in Dublin.

This will ensure that the selectors will be hesitant to chop and change the team.

Giving some rising players more valuable match time on European soil will be tempting, but over-riding this will be a desire to leave the All Blacks flag blowing ominously unchallenged on the soils of the North.

So expect most of the old guard to suit up for battle on last time this year.

Richie McCaw shall likely lead his troops out, alongside a man many believe has equal value to the World Champion's currency in Kieran Read.

Steven Luatua could be given another chance but Liam Messam has responded to the gauntlet thrown down by the Blues blindside.

With the All Blacks second row in such health the likes of Jeremy Thrush or Dominic Bird could be considered.

Up front much depends on the desire to give further players a run, with the selectors wary that scrummaging on the field on Aviva Stadium will be crucial for the development of the next tier.

Out wide Dan Carter will be missing, and one suspects Ireland in Dublin is not the place for Beauden Barrett to receive his first Test start.

Ma'a Nonu and Ben Smith will likely continue their new partnership, but beyond them a real selection battle is in place.

Julian Savea, Cory Jane and Charles Piutau are battling for two wings spots, while there may be a temptation to give Francis Saili and Frank Halai extra minutes.

However with history being a cruel judge when it comes to recording a perfect season, one doesn't suspect the All Blacks to sway to far from the tried and true.