Revenge is not motivating the All Blacks for their clash against England this week.

Just for the record, revenge is not motivating the All Blacks for their clash against England this week.

And if all questions on that very subject could cease forthwith, that would demonstrably please the world’s No 1 side immensely.

Of course, that ain’t gonna happen. Sports writers and talking heads – especially British ones – love a good tale of retribution, and for them this week’s clash between unstoppable force and immovable object lives up to that billing.

The All Blacks have won all 12 of their tests in 2012, a number of them against very handy sides indeed.

They’ve also lost just once in 25 outings under Steve Hansen and are on one of sport’s great tears, having won 31, drawn one and lost just one of their last 33 matches.

That loss, of course, was against England at the end of last season and boy are the All Blacks hearing about it this week as Fleet Street’s finest come out with their pens sharpened.

There’s a bit of a theme developing too. The questions keep rising up off a length and the All Blacks keep batting them away with the skill of a Sachin Tendulkar in his pomp.

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but right now it’s off the New Zealand menu altogether.

The All Blacks, who look like they might make just the one change on the wing to the side that had to work so hard in Paris for that 26-19 victory, have clearly developed a party policy round the so-called revenge factor. Fair enough.

England are a team worth their respect anyway – having won six straight at home and nine of their last 10 tests – and the New Zealanders are definitely keen to downplay the emotional quotient.

“Certainly you don’t like losing in a black jersey,” said No 8 Kieran Read today in London. “But there’s a lot of things that have changed in 12 months.

“It’s a completely different team and we’re in a different space right now, so you go out and want to win every time. That’s our mindset this week.”

Another silver tongued devil tried a different tack, asking if they would be “channelling” last year into their performance this weekend?

Again Read: “Yeah, but it also can affect you if you start chasing tails. To be honest it (last year’s defeat) hasn’t been used at all. There’s enough people in the squad who were here last year who have that in the back of their minds. We’re just focusing on doing our job come Saturday.”

It was a similarly staunch reply when lock Sam Whitelock, who will bring up his 50th test at the tender age of 25 against England, was asked about the challenge coming the All Blacks’ way at scrum time.

The muscular set-piece has been the All Blacks’ weak point this year, and you don’t need to have the rugby intellect of Wayne Smith to understand that teams are now coming for the world champs in this area.

Last weekend France backed themselves to take a scrum, rather than lineout, to try level the game late, and you can be sure the English pack will have the scent of blood in their flaring nostrils.

“The set piece for us tight five members is always critical,” said Whitelock, by now in auto-speak.

“I don’t think we approach it different for any game. For us giving top-quality ball to our loosies and backs and allowing them to strike doesn’t change. We’re prepared for whatever they bring.”

But still they tried. What about the sickness that struck the team last year? It was noted that the team appeared to run out of gas, and wondered how much better would they be this year without that debilitating bug in their systems? Again, nothing.

“That was a long time ago, we don’t really need to go there,” responded Read. “We pride ourselves on our fitness, and we’ll look to play an 80-minute game.

“Test matches are tough and you can’t expect to go out and get on top right away. Sometimes it can take 60, 70 or 80 minutes. We’re willing to go to that place and grind out a win if we have to.”

The All Blacks clearly have their games faces on this week, and that’s a good thing if you’re a New Zealander.

It’s probably why coach Steve Hansen will resist the temptation to make more changes. He wants the men hardened by the French challenge to step back in and make their response this week.

The squad all participated in a sharp training run at their now traditional venue at Latymer Upper School fields. It was purposeful and businesslike, much like their efforts in the media room this week.

– © Fairfax NZ News


About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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