All Blacks mindful of tough task in backing up

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Lynn McConnell     23 Aug 2018     Getty Images

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said if the first Test was looked at 'in all honesty' the Wallabies should have probably scored four or five tries.

"They just made wee mistakes - whether that was because of fatigue or pressure from us, I'm not sure but I think they'll come out and they'll play well," he said.

"They'll ask questions of us. That's why I said at the beginning of the press conference here, we have to play better than we did last week because they will."

While there had been criticism of a lack of fitness among the Australians, Hansen said he didn't know if that was the case because he didn't have access to their data. But, he said, defending was hard work and when there were times Australia put 10 or more phases together the All Blacks were struggling. And when Australia scored their try several All Blacks were walking.

"And I know we're not unfit. It's the way the two teams play I think. We had one guy run over 10ks which is quite a lot for a rugby game so you've got to be reasonably mentally tough as well as fit," he said.

Looking to the weekend he said backing up a good performance was one of the hardest things to do in sport, particularly when playing the same opponent.

"The fear factor that was there before both teams played each other last week has been removed because we now know each other. Whilst we've played each other many, many times before, those two teams [last Saturday] hadn't met in the middle of the arena.

"Whether we like it or not, sub-consciously, the scoreboard has an effect on us. What we've got to be able to manage is our ability mentally to be able to put ourselves back into that nerve state that we were in before we played them the first time. Whether it's Australia, South Africa, whoever you're playing in a series, it is difficult.

"Your mind is probably your greatest weapon. You only have to be five percent off in your preparation…if they're five percent better and you're five percent off, that's a 10 percent change. There's not a lot between some of these teams," he said.

Hansen said the choice of Ngani Laumape at second five-eighths came down to his specialisation in the role, just as it had with Ryan Crotty for the first Test. Anton Lienert-Brown was doing a fantastic job for the side off the bench, as he had done when called into action so early in Sydney.

Laumape would be more comfortable starting and would provide them with something they were looking for in that position.

While they had plans in mind for both Laumape and Jordie Barrett when naming their first Test side, injuries had resulted in a rethink and Barrett would also be involved at fullback in Auckland.

Nehe Milner-Skudder had been considered but it was felt he needed more game time in the Mitre 10 Cup with Manawatu so he will play in Friday's Ranfurly Shield challenge against Taranaki and be available for Manawatu next week as well.

Hansen said it was beneficial for younger players to have time to be absorbed into the system without always having the weight of game time and the extra pressure involved in that.

"I just find it allows young people to step back, reflect a wee bit and get a better understanding of: a – who they are, b – what we want and c – how you can go about doing that. It seems to be a formula that has worked for us in the past. You don't want to rush them, you don't have to because we're blessed, we've got a lot of talent and it allows us to do those sorts of things," he said.