Fear of first loss to Irish will spur on Kiwis – Fitzpatrick
Legendary All Blacks hooker Sean Fitzpatrick has warned Ireland that New Zealand will not slip up in their final Test of the year on Sunday – as they did at Twickenham 12 months ago, when they were also chasing an unbeaten season.
New Zealand were convincingly beaten by England in 2012 but Fitzpatrick is adamant that they are now in a far better place, both mentally and physically.
"Thirteen of those guys (Saturday's team against England) started at Twickenham last year. The whole pack was involved. They learned a big lesson. They got beaten up, ambushed. They won't make that mistake again," he said.
"They're a mature, experienced team and they've got decision-makers in the right positions. The young kids have been inducted very well. (Steve) Hansen has done an unbelievable job of bringing in these kids like Brodie Retallick."
The All Blacks were pushed close by England again at the weekend but their ability to step it up a gear saw them stay on course to become the first international team in the professional era to go an entire calendar year with a 100pc record.
"I thought they played really well," said Fitzpatrick, who was speaking as a guest of DHL, an official partner of the 2015 World Cup. "England did rattle them. They put them under pressure and then the All Blacks gave away penalties."
Fitzpatrick, who won 92 caps for his country, says that the All Blacks are fully focused on maintaining their 27-game unbeaten record against Ireland.
"The guys that will be given the responsibility on Sunday know there's a lot of history," he said. "It's about winning every game for us. The record against Ireland is pretty important. You don't want to be involved in the first team that loses the record. That's very much a fear."
"My father lost to the Welsh in 1953 and never got over it. So I can imagine the guys won't want to be involved in the first ever All Black team that loses to Ireland."
Ireland were beaten three times by the All Blacks on their summer tour last year but, according to Fitzpatrick, are still very much respected in his home country.
"There's a huge respect for Ireland. It has traditionally been a difficult game. It doesn't really matter what happened to Ireland against Australia because they're playing the All Blacks as the game of their lives.
"You have to get yourself up for it mentally. Look at England last Saturday. Once they realised it was just human beings that they were up against, physically they took us on and that's what Ireland need to do. They need to believe they can beat the All Blacks.
"If I was an Irishman, I'd think 'Fantastic, I can be one of the first guys who beats the All Blacks.' Ireland have to throw the kitchen sink at them."