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'The difference in Chicago is that it was an an attitudinal problem'

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen feels there’s a difference between the loss to Ireland and the defeat to the Lions.

Murray Kinsella reports from Queenstown

ALMOST AS SOON as the final whistle had gone on the Lions’ shock victory in Wellington on Saturday, the warnings about an All Blacks backlash were being delivered.

Kieran Read dejected All Blacks captain Kieran Read was dejected in Wellington. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Warren Gatland himself, while expressing his delight at the 24-21 success, underlined the scale of the challenge that awaits in Auckland next weekend when he recalled the last time the Kiwis had lost.

“We know historically that when New Zealand teams lose they respond and there’s no better example than what happened in Chicago last year and then in Dublin in the following game,” said the Lions boss.

“We know we are going to be in for an almighty battle in Eden Park next week.”

Ireland’s lessons at the hands of Steve Hansen’s side back in November do seem particularly relevant now.

The win in Chicago was a huge landmark moment for Irish rugby, as remarkable as the Lions’ success at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, but the All Blacks responded in ferocious fashion and physically battered Ireland in Dublin a fortnight later.

Interestingly, Hansen doesn’t really see the similarity between the two situations from the All Blacks’ point of view.

Asked if the All Blacks can draw on how they responded to that defeat to Joe Schmidt’s side this week ahead of the third and deciding Lions Test at Eden Park, Hansen said that the Kiwis had been in a bad place mentally in November.

“The difference in Chicago is that it was an an attitudinal problem,” said Hansen. “While we had a couple of the big boys out and had won 18 on the row, we got to Chicago, a big sigh of relief after getting the record – as you saw also with England – and we may well have been starting to get comfortable.

Conor Murray celebrates Robbie Henshaw's try Source: INPHO/Billy Stickland

“The Cubs had won the World Series the first time in however many years it was and we’d started to become tourists rather than a team on tour.

“Last night was total different,” continued the All Blacks boss. “It wasn’t an attitudinal problem. I just think we were one [man] short and we were playing a good side. What we have to learn from last night is how to play a little smarter in those situations.

“So if that happens again, primarily with a yellow card, how do we deal with it and how do we make sure we come out the right side?

“We’ll look at tape, from game one to two to three, and see where can we make improvements tactically, and how can we hurt them from a space point of view. They will do the same thing.”

It’s a fascinating insight into what the All Blacks believe they got wrong in Chicago when Ireland achieved that famous win and Hansen’s words possibly won’t sit too well with some Irish supporters.

But his answer also explains to us where the All Blacks will look to learn most from the defeat to the Lions in Wellington – their first home loss since 2009.

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No one likes losing, but Hansen does concede that sometimes the bitter disappointment is necessary to get better and this upset by the Lions points to the All Blacks’ need to control territory in key passages of the game.

Sonny Bill Williams is shown a red card by Jerome Garces Sonny Bill Williams' red card was costly. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Hansen was frustrated that the All Blacks didn’t manage to spend long periods of the game in the Lions’ 22, instead attempting to play from deeper even when they were at a numerical disadvantage.

“It’s about what we call the inconvenient fact,” said Hansen. “Sometimes we brush over the cracks that are there. When you lose, the cracks get exposed because that is why you have lost.

“The crack that got exposed last night was that we didn’t know how to take that space that was downfield towards the end.

“How we do learn from that and go there?”

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Murray Kinsella

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