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All Blacks keep one eye on World Cup preparations

All Blacks keep one eye on World Cup preparations

Revenge might be the order of the day for the All Blacks this weekend but Steve Hansen admits that the World Cup remains the priority for his side.

Revenge might be the order of the day for the All Blacks this weekend but Steve Hansen admits that the World Cup remains the priority for his side.

New Zealand are in danger of surrendering the Bledisloe Cup to Australia for the first time since 2002 after the Wallabies claimed a 27-19 victory in Sydney.

This week’s return fixture takes place at Eden Park in Auckland where the Wallabies have not won since 1986.

But after a disappointing performance last time out, Hansen has resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to his starting XV.

Ma’a Nonu comes in at inside centre to replace Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Whitelock come into the second row to partner Brodie Retallick and Victor Vito is given the nod over Jerome Kaino in the back-row.

Just three changes means the likes of Dan Carter and Conrad Smith are given another chance to impress and with the World Cup getting underway next month, Hansen admits he is always looking at the bigger picture. 

“Everything is for an eye down the road in World Cup year," he said. "These are the only tests we've got to ascertain where everyone is at, so you've got to be brave, and you've got to have a plan.

"Whilst we hit a road bump last week, we don't need to panic and deviate off the plan. We've still got to get to where we've got to get to, and get there with real purpose.

"World Cup year brings its wee quirks – you roll the dice. Those little quirks won't prevent us wining the test match if we turn up with the right attitude and bring the best of what we've got. Then we're forcing Australia to bring the best of what they've got.

"Whilst everyone is saying we're under pressure, I think Australia have now put themselves in a place where people have got high expectations of them, and with that comes pressure too.

"It's one of those great test matches. We're going to find out who's got the steel and who hasn't."

By contrast, Michael Cheika has made six changes to his side as Quade Cooper and Nic White come into the half-back positions with Matt Toomua at inside centre.

Henry Speight gets his first run out of 2015 on the right wing while up front Will Skelton comes into the second row and Wycliff Palu replaces David Pocock at No.8 – the latter looking to win his 50th Wallaby cap if he comes off the bench in Auckland. 

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