No fatigue factor for All Blacks
New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster said complacency and fatigue won't be excuses should a bid for a perfect year fall at the final hurdle.
New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster has said complacency and fatigue won't be excuses should a bid for a perfect year fall at the final hurdle against Ireland.
The world champions head into Sunday's match at Dublin's Lansdowne Road, the All Blacks' final outing of the season, having won all 13 of their previous Tests in 2013.
No international team in the professional era has enjoyed a perfect calendar year - with South Africa's 1995 World Cup winning side, captain by Francois Pienaar, the last to achieve this with a perfect 10 from 10.
The New Zealand team led by Wayne Shelford, that won all seven of their Tests in 1989, was the last group of All Blacks to achieve the feat when Rugby Union was still an amateur sport.
New Zealand themselves came close to perfection again when they won 11 Tests and drew one under John Hart in 1997, while Ireland won nine and drew one out of 10 in 2009.
The All Blacks are on a run which has seen them lose just once in their past 34 Tests, a stunning 38-21 defeat by England at Twickenham last year.
Foster said that match had been talked about as New Zealand eyed a record of played 14, won 14 for 2013.
"Obviously we have discussed what happened 12 months ago," Foster told reporters in Dublin on Tuesday.
"There is no room for complacency or surprises and we can't use those as excuses.
"We're amazingly fresh for mid-November, we're in great health and in good form," said Foster of a New Zealand side who were pushed hard by England before winning 30-22 at Twickenham last weekend.
"We're in really good heart so complacency and fatigue will be out the window as excuses," added Foster, who coached the Chiefs for seven years until New Zealand coach Steve Hansen asked him to become his assistant with the All Blacks.
Foster, though, tried to play down talk about the record, saying the All Blacks had been far from satisfied with their form in Europe, having beaten France 26-19 in Paris this month before defeating England.
"It's boring press but for us this game is just the next one, nothing more.
"We're really pleased with the first two results but we're not happy with the performances.
"We're ambitious and we are still chasing that great performance. So this match, for us it is not relevant that it is either the last Test of the year or that the opposition is Ireland."
New Zealand will have to make at least one change from the team that started against England after Dan Carter was ruled out with the Achilles injury that cut short his 100th Test appearance.
But Foster had no fears about either the 24-year-old Aaron Cruden or the even younger Beauden Barrett (22), stepping in for the star flyhalf - something Cruden in particular has become used to given Carter has started just five Tests this year.
"Aaron has been a big part of this season while 'Beaudie' has been simmering away behind the scenes," said Foster.
"Cruden can be very satisfied with his year as he has started a fair amount of Tests and run the games really well, especially the first Test of the Rugby Championship against Australia [which the All Blacks won 47-29 in Sydney in August]."
Foster, who was co-coach of the Junior All Blacks when they went unbeaten for 16 matches in 2009, said New Zealand were anticipating a much-improved Ireland side from the one outclassed 32-15 by Australia last Saturday.
"Well they are finding their feet under a new coaching regime," he said of an Ireland team now under the control of a fellow Kiwi in Joe Schmidt.
"They were pretty good against Samoa (a 40-9 win earlier in the month) and then clearly met a fired up and in-form Australian team.
"One good performance followed by a disappointing one, they will have learnt a lot from those matches and be very fired-up and physical and want to get on the front foot."