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All Blacks embrace shot at Test record

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2 days ago Angelo Risso

Faced with the possibility of securing a record 18th consecutive Test victory, the All Blacks found themselves with two choices.

They could ignore the elephant in the room, or they could embrace it.

And unlike in previous years, they've chosen the latter.

The world champions will take on Australia at Eden Park on Saturday for a shot at rugby history, with no other tier-one nation ever nabbing 18 on the trot.

New Zealand have been in this position before, having blown opportunities to clinch their 18th win in 1969 and, more recently, 2014.

On that occasion, preceding a dour 12-all draw with the Wallabies in Sydney, the side shied away from discussing the potential milestone.

Head coach Steve Hansen said that mistake wouldn't be repeated this time around, with last year's World Cup a source of inspiration.

"We've chosen to say, yes, it's an opportunity, it's right there in front of us so what are we going to do about it?" Hansen told reporters.

Hooker Dane Coles verified his coach's remarks, saying this All Blacks side was much more aware of their potential to create history.

"This year we've embraced it and we're aware of it, but we're not getting too carried away," the Hurricanes skipper said.

Hansen has gone with a mostly unchanged line-up for Saturday's third Bledisloe, sticking with those who did the job in style against the Springboks in Durban.

Openside Matt Todd has retained his spot in the run-on side ahead of the prodigious Ardie Savea, while brother Julian takes the place of Waisake Naholo.

Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown has also held off the challenge of Malakai Fekitoa to start in the No.13 jersey.

Hansen expected Australia to roar out of the blocks in Auckland as they look to spoil the party and prevent a series clean sweep.

Both sides had strengthened since their last encounter in August, with the Wallabies boosted by wins against Argentina and South Africa.

Hansen felt the Australian side's lineout and set-piece ability had improved, while he predicted first-five Quade Cooper would be omitted from the run-on XV.

Stand-in halfback Nick Phipps would also make an impact.

"Their lineout ball is a lot better than it has been, so their platform is better and that will give them go-forward," Hansen said.

"I'm picking they'll play two big guys in the midfield, play Bernard Foley at first-five and give Quade a rest."

Coles came in for particular attention from the Wallabies in August, with Australian gamesmanship causing the hooker to lash out.

He was unsure if he'd be suffer the same treatment on Saturday.

"We don't intentionally go out there to bring niggle," the 29-year-old said. "If they do, we've probably got to react a bit faster."

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