A CHANCE to register a first perfect season in the professional era is barely causing a ripple among the All Blacks as they seek more small improvements on their season-ending tour.
New Zealand’s record for 2013 improved to 11-0 after a 54-6 dispatching of Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.
The three hardest legs of the tour follow, starting with France in Paris on Saturday, then England and Ireland at their strongholds on November 16 and 24 respectively.
If successful in all three, the All Blacks will become the first top-tier nation to notch a 100 per cent winning season in the 18th year of professional rugby.
New Zealand have come closest to achieving it before, when they won 11 games and drew one under John Hart in 1997.
They have suffered one lone loss in four other seasons, a figure matched by England, while South Africa and France have both achieved that once.
Ireland produced a standout result in 2009 when they won nine and drew won.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen deflected questioning about conquering the milestone shortly after arriving in Paris.
“It’s something that’s in the background; it’s for other people to talk about,” Hansen said.
“We know we’ve got the players and the talent within the group to be really hard to beat.
“If someone beats us, then they’ve played well and we have to accept that.”
Hansen quickly referred to the 38-21 trouncing his team were handed by England at Twickenham 12 months ago – his only defeat in 25 Tests in charge – to keep all grounded.
Adjusting from what was needed to overcome world No.15 Japan would need to happen quickly too.
“I don’t think it will take too much of a mental shift. Everyone’s aware of what’s coming and the group’s pretty excited about that,” Hansen said.
“There’s three opponents left in the season and all three of them bring different challenges.
“We’ve got an aim for every player, older or younger, to be better at the end of the tour than they were at the start of it.”