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All Blacks rediscover focus in Ireland

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 17/11/2016 Angelo Risso
All Black coach Steve Hansen. © RNZ/Ian Telfer All Black coach Steve Hansen.

Ensconced in their outer Dublin fortress, the All Blacks reckon they've found something they failed to find two weeks ago in Chicago - focus.

The world champions were trumped on that sunny afternoon 40-29 by the Irish, out-thought and out-manoeuvred by an intelligent kicking and set-piece game.

At the time, boss Steve Hansen was nothing but gracious in commending Ireland and Kiwi-born coach Joe Schmidt on an historic and record-ending victory.

But, simmering beneath the surface, the World Cup-winning coach was stewing on how his players had spent their week in the Windy City, watching sports and attending baseball parades.

He didn't go so far as to admit they were distracted, but questioned whether the Windy City's bright lights and Cubs-mania had been a factor in their lethargy.

There are no such side issues this time around.

With the team staying in the plush surrounds of Castleknock, a good 20-minute drive from downtown Dublin, the All Blacks are in the perfect environment to rediscover their mojo.

Whereas the side stayed just off Michigan Avenue in Chicago, there's nothing within cooee of the Castleknock lodgings and the training paddock is just a shuttle bus away.

So the players have hunkered down in search of a little Irish payback, having swatted aside the Italians last weekend in Rome.

"You've heard me talking about how our preparation has to be bone-deep, and how bone-deep was it? Only the individual can tell you, but the result tells you it wasn't," Hansen said.

"There's no complacency because there's no room for it."

The All Blacks rarely find themselves needing to bounce back from defeat, having lost only four Tests since Hansen took over from Sir Graham Henry in 2012.

Chicago also marked the first defeat of Kieran Read's captaincy after overseeing a flawless June series against Wales and the Rugby Championship title.

The resulting video review on Monday was thus an uncomfortable affair, as the forthright Hansen laid down a few choice words to his troops.

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