DUNEDIN – The All Blacks insisted they were under “massive” pressure for Saturday’s Test against Australia, despite thrashing them last week – and said they rate the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup second only to the World Cup.
Bookmakers in both countries have New Zealand as red-hot favourites to clinch the Cup for the 15th consecutive year, after they opened the three-Test series by beating the Wallabies 54-34 in Sydney.
But as the world champions wrapped up preparations in Dunedin, with lock Brodie Retallick among several players practising long-range drop goals, captain Kieran Read said they were taking nothing for granted.
The Bledisloe Cup doubles as part of the Rugby Championship, the southern hemisphere competition also featuring South Africa and Argentina.
“This (Bledisloe Cup) is the most important trophy we play for outside the World Cup. I’m really desperate for it. I want it,” Read said.
New Zealand built a 54-6 lead against Australia last week, but they are still smarting at the way they conceded 28 unanswered points as the Wallabies staged a revival.
“The key from our point of view is to start again,” said back-rower Read, who will be playing his 102nd Test.
“We certainly weren’t happy with the last 30 minutes of last week. It was probably a great kick in the guts for us.
“We slightly took our foot off the throat, and if we’re not there mentally, then they are a team that can do that. They’re dangerous, they’re hungry and they’ve certainly got a point to prove.”
In addition to the lure of sealing the Bledisloe Cup, the All Blacks are also drawing on the memory of New Zealand rugby icon Colin Meads, who died last Sunday aged 81.
The All Blacks will be wearing special jerseys in honour of Meads, and both sides will observe a minute’s silence before the game.