New Zealand

All Blacks aiming for clean sweep

Mon, 21 Oct 2013 07:31
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It doesn't matter how well you play, you're always striving to play better
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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is demanding even higher performance levels on their year-end tour as they look to make it an unbeaten season.

Despite ending the Rugby Championship with six wins out of six, including a 38-27 triumph over arch-rivals the Springboks at their Ellis Park fortress in Johannesburg, Hansen sees room for improvement.

The All Blacks will use the opening Test of the tour against Japan as match experience for younger members of the squad before reverting to their top combinations to play France, England and Ireland.

"The aim of the tour is to further develop our game structures, our skills sets and our individual players," Hansen said.

"We will be looking to use the tour to take ourselves beyond where we are at the moment."

The All Blacks have this year beaten France and Australia three times each and have four wins out of four against South Africa and Argentina.

But Hansen, targeting an unbeaten year, said victory in Europe was not guaranteed.

"I don't think we've got any right to go around thumping our chests saying that we're unbeatable," Hansen said.

"It doesn't matter how well you play, you're always striving to play better."

There are four new players in the squad which was announced on Sunday, including Crusaders loose forward Luke Whitelock -- the third member of his family to make the All Blacks behind senior lock Sam Whitelock and one-Test flank George.

The other new faces are prop Joe Moody and lock Dominic Bird from the Crusaders and Blues wing Frank Halai.

The touring party will also have an "apprentice" player, rising Wellington Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea, a younger brother of All Blacks wing Julian Savea.

Bird, who at 2.06 metres will become the tallest All Black on record when he makes his debut, was in the frame for selection to play against France in June before being injured.

Moody has risen to the top of the front-row ranks from a sports background that includes representing New Zealand in age-grade rugby league and wrestling.

Halai was the top try-scorer in Super Rugby this year and has also been a world series winner with the New Zealand Sevens team.

AFP

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