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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Hansen review aimed at showing All Blacks how to take revenge on Irish

New Zealand’s Sam Whitelock has a fitness test tomorrow. Pic: Sportsfile
New Zealand’s Sam Whitelock has a fitness test tomorrow. Pic: Sportsfile

Last week, Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell nominated New Zealand as "the masters at looking at what went right and what went wrong and having their own plan and doing something different".

That will be put to the test for the first time in 18 internationals this week.

The foundations of that plan will be all the firmer as long as Sam Whitelock can come through live scrum sessions tomorrow to renew his lock-busting partnership with Brodie Retallick.

The crumbling of the All Blacks lineout in Chicago was the main reason for their failure to extend their unbeaten record against Ireland.

When the set-piece went to pieces, there was not enough clean ball to wipe out the Irish.

"When you don't go out there and don't perform, whether collectively or individually, the next opportunity you want to get out there and improve on how you've played," said Whitelock.

Undoubtedly, the hammer would have come down hard from coach Steve Hansen.

"It was a good honest review which it always is," said the experienced lock.

"It's good that it was honest rather than going sideways with it.

"Steve drives the review, but it is a buy-in from everyone.

"The whole squad has to be honest with themselves first of all and their performance. That is the way you get the most learning and growth."

Whitelock does not buy the theory that the pressure has doubled on New Zealand, now that their status as the best in the history of the game has been questioned.

"It's test rugby. There is pressure no matter who you are playing or where you are playing them.

"That's always there and always will be as long as it is test rugby," he said.

A single defeat has had no impact on his psyche, especially when he was not there to influence the game.

Burden

"I haven't really thought about it in that detail or thought about the burden of it," he offered.

"It's the sign of the times, it's professional rugby. Ireland are just like us in that they train every day to become a better team. To see them improve is awesome for them."

The extra muscle of Retallick and Whitelock would give the front row greater traction at scrum time.

Ireland's Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong were herculean on Soldier Field.

For tight-head Owen Franks "it's not about revenge.

"Any time you don't perform your best and put your best effort out, there is always more for yourself really.

"We expect Ireland to perform really well like they did the last time, especially at home with a huge Irish crowd.

"They have the monkey off their back and for them the ultimate would be to back it up. That then is the sign of a really good team."

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