The buoyant All Blacks have arrived in London vowing the pursuit of rugby excellence will eliminate complacency ahead of a Grand Slam showdown with the struggling England this weekend.
New Zealand face an England side under siege since suffering a record loss on home soil to world champions South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
The magnitude of the 6-42 defeat has prompted a wave of despair in the English press but the All Blacks, publicly at least, have not brought into the doom and gloom enveloping Martin Johnson’s new era.
After dispatching Scotland, Ireland and Wales without conceding a try — nor a point in the second half of each test — All Blacks management and staff are wary of underestimating last year’s World Cup runners-up.
“We’re not going to read too much into the score from the South African game,” said blindside flanker Jerome Kaino, expressing a line sure to be repeated throughout the week.
“The Grand Slam is not an easy thing to achieve. The boys really want to focus on doing the right things this week.”
Assistant coach Steve Hansen emphasised the final week of an arduous season was more about maintaining the side’s own exacting standards rather than concentrating too much on England.
The Springboks match will be analysed but Hansen doubted it would reveal much that they did not already know.
“We’ve looked at a lot of their games already – I assume that one will confirm most of the stuff we’ve already seen.
“It’s definitely about our standards I think,” Hansen said of the lead-up.
“It’s about what we do to prepare to play. If we do that honestly and with a real genuine desire then you get to end of the week and Saturday becomes the fun part.
“You know you’ve done your work and your mate’s done his job …. we’re a pretty good rugby team when we’re like that – going in with a bit of excitement.”
The team could be excused for having a foot on the plane but Hansen said the prospect of achieving the All Blacks’ third Grand Slam – and the added bonus of becoming the first holder of a trophy honouring Sir Edmund Hillary – would sustain them through the final week before they split up.
The team have their first training run on Tuesday before the 22-man squad is named.
It is unlikely to deviate significantly from the team responsible for retaining the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup before notching wins in Hong Kong – against Australia – Ireland and Wales.
Each of those tests have displayed a hallmark of the first choice team – the ability grind teams into submission after absorbing periods of intense pressure.
Hansen said there was no particular secret to the fortitude shown after halftime at Suncorp Stadium, Hong Kong Stadium, Croke Park and the Millennium Stadium.
Wales led 9-3 on the stroke of halftime before the All Blacks piled on 26 unanswered points – their resurgence largely par for the course.
He said, “They’ve always had a big juggernaut pack and they don’t really want to play far from the dark places with those guys. They try and slow the game down – we’ve got to find ways of opening it up.”