14 Aug 2015

All Blacks prepare for biggest Bledisloe Test in years

6:37 pm on 14 August 2015

The All Blacks are gearing up for one of the biggest challenges they've faced since winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup - defending the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park.

New Zealand's Ben Smith chases Australia's Kurtley Beale. Eden Park. 2014.

New Zealand's Ben Smith chases Australia's Kurtley Beale. Eden Park. 2014. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

After being beaten by Australia in the first of two Bledisloe Cup Tests last weekend, the All Blacks need to win the Test match to retain the trans-Tasman trophy.

There is a lot of history on the line for the All Blacks - the last time the Wallabies lifted the Cup was in 2002, and Australia haven't beaten New Zealand at Eden Park since way back in 1986.

Ben Smith, who was born in the same year as that loss, is starting at fullback for the All Blacks, and he says he hopes the team hangs on to the long record of wins on Saturday night.

"We're just trying to improve from last weekend and put in a really good account of ourselves to make that possible to do Eden Park really proud.

"What I'm gathering from around the team room and the players is they're really excited to get out there this weekend," Smith said.

Smith believed there had been a big lift in spirits within the All Blacks camp as they prepare for their last match before next month's World Cup in England.

That message was reiterated by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who said he was well aware that the last time Australia beat New Zealand twice in a row during a Bledisloe Cup series was in 2001.

Hansen said Saturday's Test is as much about improving on their performance after last week as it is about retaining the second most important trophy in New Zealand Rugby.

"You can feel there's a bit more edge, whilst you want to learn from winning, there's no doubt that losing hurts a lot more than winning does and you look deeper within yourself, there's plenty of sports stories and sports people that will tell you that," said Hansen.

The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Hansen applauded the efforts of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika who he said has worked incredibly hard to improve the team culture within the Wallabies environment.

The All Blacks coach said one of the keys to retaining the Bledisloe Cup will be his team's ability to adapt to different situations on the field as well as beating Australia to the breakdown.

One way he hopes to achieve that is by giving Victor Vito a start at blindside flanker.

Vito replaces Jeroime Kaino in the No.6 jersey and said playing in Test matches like these is what every New Zealand rugby player dreams of.

"As a Kiwi growing up you see the boys and I remember the heartache we had when we didn't have it so it's massive for us, and we want to make sure we keep it on our shores," Vito said.

Meanwhile Wallabies captain Stephen Moore said his side isn't becoming complacent following their first win over the All Blacks in four years.

Moore said while last weekend's game was a major breakthrough for his side, they're still a long way from lifting the trophy they haven't touched in 13 years.

"Well if you look across the game everything we did on the weekend we're going to need to do better on Saturday so when you look at it that way there's still plenty of stuff to work on," said Moore.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika Photo: Photosport

Before flying out for Auckland on Thursday night, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was quizzed about his selection of first five Quade Cooper, who has had a history of poor performances at Eden Park.

Cooper was labelled "Public Enemy Number One" during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and was jeered relentlessly throughout the country in every match he played.

That jeering came to a head at Eden Park during the Wallabies' semi-final demolition by the All Blacks.

Days later, he suffered a sickening knee injury in the bronze medal playoff against Wales at the same ground.

Cheika said he has full faith in Cooper ahead of their final Test before next month's World Cup in England and Wales.

"I believe in (Cooper)... as a person and as a player," Cheika told reporters at Sydney airport.

"From before we played the first game I thought I'd have a look at doing one thing in Sydney and (another) thing in Auckland.

"Just because we won in Sydney, I didn't want to change my approach... I just wanted to have a look at that combination of (Cooper) and Toomua playing together.

"The game changes every week. I think if we just stay the same all the time, we'll become real easy to pick, perhaps."

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