Wellington: The All Blacks were disappointed not to defeat the British and Irish Lions in their series this year but the experience will benefit the world champions in the Rugby Championship as they build towards the 2019 World Cup, captain Kieran Read has said.
After an impressive win in the first test against the tourists, New Zealand lost the second match in Wellington before a 15-15 draw in the third test saw the series end 1-1.
“We reviewed that series comprehensively,” Read told reporters in Auckland on Sunday before the team headed to Australia for their August 19 clash with the Wallabies.
“It’s part of a massive (lesson) for us as a group, what we took out of that series around how we need play this game and how we need to react to pressure.
“We’ve got to make sure it helps us. We’ve got a good couple of years coming up, and something pretty big after it at the World Cup, where there will be similar pressures from what we had a month ago.
“To get that experience first-hand for a lot of guys is really beneficial. Hopefully it will show in this Championship, in these Bledisloe Cup games, what we’ve learnt.” The All Blacks romped through last year’s Championship playing a fast-paced, high-skilled style of game but said it was unlikely they would be able to do so again this year, with the Lions offering a blueprint on how to challenge them.
The opening match of the southern hemisphere championship will take place against a backdrop of turmoil in Australian rugby, both on and off the field.
None of their Super Rugby teams recorded a victory against New Zealand opposition in the recently completed season, while the Wallabies lost to Scotland and struggled to beat Italy in June.
Read, however, expected Australia to rise above the problems and provide the All Blacks with a tough test.
“I expect a pretty strong team and a pretty strong effort from them,” Read said. “They have a coach (who) ... wants to beat up other teams and that’s what he’s probably imprinted.
“He’s had a month to work on things that he thinks he needs to. I’ve experienced a Wallabies team over a number of years who have played above what they’ve done in Super Rugby.
“This year will be no different. They’re always a talented team.”
New Zealand hooker Dane Coles has been ruled out of the Rugby Championship opener against Australia after suffering a head knock in a warm-up match on Friday.
Coles had only recently returned to rugby after having a season mired by injury, including concussion symptoms that kept him out of action for around four months.
His Wellington Hurricanes team mate Ricky Riccitelli had been drafted into the side as cover, the All Blacks said on their Twitter feed on Sunday.
Coles left the field in the warm-up game on Friday, where New Zealand played half a game each against provincial sides Taranaki and Counties Manukau.
Coach Steve Hansen said the 30-year-old had been substituted on Friday as a precaution and would be monitored this week but not considered for the match against the Wallabies in Sydney.
Codie Taylor is expected to step into the starting role he fulfilled during the recent British and Irish Lions series when Coles was still suffering from concussion.
Outside backs Nehe Milner-Skudder and David Havili, who was brought in when Jordie Barrett was ruled out for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury, were also released.
The pair were expected to rejoin the squad next week in preparation for the second game against the Wallabies in Dunedin on August 26.