August 3, 2010
ALL BLACKS assistant coach Steve Hansen has sounded a warning to the Wallabies before Saturday's Bledisloe Cup rematch in Christchurch. The New Zealanders, he said, played at barely 70 per cent of their capacity during their 49-28 rout of the Wallabies in Melbourne last Saturday, and Hansen expects an improved performance on home turf this weekend.
''There's still a lot of improvement in our game from last week,'' he said of the All Blacks, who have collected the maximum 15 competition points from their three Tri Nations Tests. ''I thought we, out of 10, were only a 7 or a 6½.
''If anyone said we'd have 15 points in the bank out of 15 [after three Tests] we probably would've had a wry smile and thought they were mad. But the boys have played particularly well and most things at the moment are working well for us.
''It's just about growing that and continuing to look to improve our game and have high expectations so our standards from Monday to Friday are so high, that Saturday becomes quite easy.''
Hansen was quick to dismiss the age-old suggestion that the All Blacks' strong form a year out from the World Cup could haunt them when the Webb Ellis Trophy is on the line.
''A lot of people are saying we're peaking too early, and I think that's a load of rubbish,'' he said. ''I think you're only peaking too early if you've reached your full potential, and this team hasn't reached its full potential. So we've just got to keep working hard at what we're trying to do and perfect it even better.''
The Wallabies have been ravaged by injury and suspension in recent months - Rob Horne last weekend joining a list that includes the wounded Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Horwill, Wycliff Palu, Digby Ioane, Peter Hynes and the suspended Quade Cooper - but the All Blacks are not without their issues. Halfback Jimmy Cowan will likely miss the Christchurch Test, with Piri Weepu taking his place.
''He's got a cartilage problem in his ribs, and very unlikely to be playing. He's a pretty sore boy,'' Hansen said. ''Alby [Mathewson] is here and he'll come into the team [on the bench]. I'd say 'Pow' [Weepu] will probably start, it would be fair to say.''
The injury news is better for midfield back Richard Kahui, who will train with the team this week as part of his continuing rehabilitation from a shoulder injury.
Hansen, meanwhile, applauded the hard-line stance being adopted by referees during the Tri Nations.
''All you want from your referee is that if he says he's going to do something that he does it and he's consistent … '' he said. ''That's what we got on Saturday night.''