After demolishing the United States, the All Blacks have switched from easy assignment mode to preparing for the toughest task of their four-Test tour.
Soon after the 74-6 clinic against the US in Chicago, New Zealand’s attention narrowed to combating England at Twickenham on Saturday, ahead of the World Cup.
Sam Cane admits the trench warfare aspect of Test rugby returns as the focus against the English.
He says good vibes from the US romp must flow into accurate mental preparation if they are to topple England for a fourth time this year following the 3-0 home sweep in June.
Playing at Twickenham carries significance as the ground will host five of seven play-off games at next year’s World Cup, including both semi-finals and the final.
That suits the defending champion All Blacks, who are using this tour as a World Cup trial run.
“It’d be silly not think about the World Cup (this week), because we’re going to be reading about it and we’re going to be hearing a lot about it,” Cane said.
“It’s better just to be open about it.”
Cane was delighted to come through 80 minutes in his first start in any game for six months and hopes it was enough to book a reserves bench spot on Saturday.
He missed the June England series with injury and his only Tests since have been off the bench behind captain Richie McCaw.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen couldn’t fault the Chicago experience, aside from tour-ending injuries suffered by wing Cory Jane and hooker Nathan Harris at Soldier Field.
He was pleased with their ruthlessness and singled out bruising lock Patrick Tuipulotu and halfback TJ Perenara for unprompted praise after both made their first starts in what was largely a second-choice combination.
“It was good for the confidence of the young players but what pleased me most was they stayed on task right through the 80 minutes. They didn’t loosen up and look for the soft options,” Hansen said.
“We’ve set a good foundation now and the guys that come in a little bit fresher in England have no excuse not to perform.”