THE All Blacks will draw inspiration from rugby colossus Colin Meads as they search for a complete performance in the second Bledisloe Cup Test in Dunedin on Saturday.
You don’t become one of the world’s most dominant sporting teams by accepting lapses of concentration like the last 30 minutes in Sydney when they let the punch drunk Wallabies recover to within 20 points.
Stung by that second half meltdown, New Zealand will also wear a special tribute to Meads on their famous black jersey at Forsyth Barr Stadium following the death of the great All Blacks lock.
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Meads, who honed his strength on the farm in King Country, is a revered figure in New Zealand and widely regarded as one of the greatest rugby players ever.
He helped pave the way for modern forwards like Kieran Read with his ability to carry the ball in one hand and offload.
“We weren’t happy, obviously, with the last 30 minutes last week so that was a great kick in the guts for us, to start this week on the right note,” said All Blacks captain Read on match eve, in an ominous warning to the rank outsider Wallabies.
“There’s a couple of big things we’re playing for as well, with Colin and the Bledisloe Cup which is really treasured from our point of view.
“So those are massive.
“We certainly touched on (Meads) through the week, talked about him in our clubrooms this week and we’re obviously playing a great tribute to him on our jersey tomorrow night.
“Guys will certainly treasure that.
“It’s not necessarily going to win us the Test match, we’ve got to go out there and do it ourselves.”
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Both teams have been forced into late changes, with Kiwi prop Owen Franks succumbing to an Achilles injury and Aussie lock Adam Coleman pulling out with a bung shoulder.
Nepo Laulala and Rory Arnold are their replacements.
“(Coleman) is one of their big, physical players but I don’t think it would matter for them who is on the field,” Read said.
“They’re going to be pretty fired up, it’s their last chance tomorrow night to keep this thing alive (the Bledisloe series).
“We expect a big performance from them.”
Indeed the wounded Wallabies have perhaps never been more cornered.
Rugby in Australia is in disarray both on field and off and Read was wary of the potential for Michael Cheika’s men to try and throw the hosts off their game with some niggle.
That worked to a certain degree in the corresponding fixture last year in Wellington but the All Blacks fought through it on the way to a series-clinching 29-9 victory.
“It’s been through our minds, we’ve got to expect it,” Read said.
“We’ll adapt to whatever comes our way.
“If we can go out there and try and play our game and play it fair, play it clean, and play it really hard, a lot of that extra stuff doesn’t come into the game.
“We’ve got to make sure we can do that.
“They’re dangerous, they’re hungry, they’ve certainly got a point to prove, so you can’t take any team lightly.
“A more dominant team would have finished the job (last week) and that’s something we can improve on.”
Last week in Sydney was fast and frenetic and resulted in a whopping 54-34 scoreline.
Both sides are geared up to attack and with conditions dry and still under the roof something similar wouldn’t surprise.
But Read emphasised the need to wipe the slate clean and start again.
“It could be a completely different game out here tomorrow night,” the No 8 said.
“We’ve got to adapt to that, we might win by one or two points.
“We are pretty hungry about playing for the Bledisloe Cup.
“It has never been easy.
“It has never just come for us and last week was the same.
“It might have looked easy on the TV, us scoring those tries but it was through us doing our really basic skills really well.
“Looking after the ball, cleaning out really well, doing those things that don’t really get seen but everyone knows it in our group and it’s something we have to keep working on.”