Lynn McConnell

Southland-born Lynn McConnell is a sportswriter/historian with 40 years experience in journalism having been sports editor of The Evening Post and The Southland Times. Lynn has written several books including 'Behind the Silver Fern: Playing Rugby for New Zealand' together with Tony Johnson.

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Ireland will be final assessment of All Blacks build-up

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Lynn McConnell     16 Nov 2018     Getty Images

Back in 2014 they were said to not have had the best of years but had still won a lot of games, Hansen said.

"We're doing the same thing this year. We're finding out a lot about ourselves, about our selections, about how we want to play the game so, from a Rugby World Cup point of view, we're on track," he said.

The outcome on Saturday would not affect the World Cup.

It would give a guideline on how they were going but he said he had never worried too much about what happened yesterday. It was about the now. The World Cup was still a wee way away so there was still a lot of work they could put in before then.

The All Blacks were not holding anything back for the World Cup. They were introducing new options and that had made them a little scrappy so it was a balance between waiting long enough, and introducing it early enough, so the side could master what it was trying to do.

The All Blacks would have to throw everything into the Ireland game to succeed because the margins between winning and losing among the top five or six sides were so small.

"The best thing that ever happened to northern hemisphere rugby was that you didn't make any of the semifinals in the World Cup [2015] and you've gone away and Ireland, particularly, were really disappointed about their World Cup. They've come back strong, England have come back strong, won 18 in a row and they've got a good team there at the moment.

"France have started to get their stuff together, so when you've got teams who are raising the bar and playing each other regularly it's got to be good for you. The standard of rugby world-wide, I think, has got better and it's a good thing that it has," he said.

Preparation in Dublin had been different to that before the England Test, because the players hadn't played the week before. The tough nature of the Twickenham game meant management had to take it a little easier on the players in Dublin, but at the same time they had put some good work in and Hansen was happy with how they had prepared.

Ireland were probably the team that held onto the ball for the longest in the world game and if they don't get what they want doing that they would take to the air to use their good kicking game.

"You've got to admire all of that, it's winning and they'll punish you. They'll find a weakness. He's pretty good Joe at finding a trick or two so we'll be expecting one or two coming our way on Saturday," he said.

Countering that would require the All Blacks hanging onto the ball themselves. The set-piece would be vital while what they did with the ball would also be important, he said.

"So if we're going to kick it, we've got to kick it well, make sure we get a chance to get it back and do a wee bit of suffocating ourselves."

The All Blacks, even without the majority of possession, needed to keep their self-belief because they were very good at finding ways to succeed when things weren't going the way they wanted them to go.

"What most people don't understand is everybody we play has the game of their lives because we're the team they want to beat and they get up for it. So they're playing 10 percent more than they normally play from the get-go. If they're a good side and they play 10 percent better then we've got to improve a lot ourselves.

"Sometimes it's a real battle, this time of year particularly. We're coming to the end of our season so we've got to find ways to get energised and play with real purpose," he said.

Ireland would have been helped by not playing well against Argentina last weekend and that would ensure they had done plenty of work in preparation for this week.