Australia next team in line for the in-form New Zealand side.
The Wallabies have set their sights on the all-conquering All Blacks and retrieving the Bledisloe Cup after sweeping their three-Test series against France this weekend.
The Australians had too much firepower for Les Bleus, winning 39-13 in Sydney on Saturday for their seventh consecutive Test win under coach Ewen McKenzie.
It has been 12 years since the Wallabies last held the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy, but McKenzie said there was every reason for Australia to believe that a slice of history could be within their reach against the world champions.
“There’s no mortgage on these sorts of things,” McKenzie told reporters on Sunday.
“They’ve obviously dominated for a period of time and they’re not going to hand it over.
“We’ve got to go out there and win it. We’ve got to get everything right.”
Adding to the intrigue is that the All Blacks will be bidding for a record-breaking 18th consecutive Test victory in Sydney on August 16 after downing England 36-13 in Hamilton on Saturday.
New Zealand are now equal with the 17-Test winning runs of the 1965-69 All Blacks and 1997-98 Springboks.
Given the traditional hype and niggle that surrounds a Bledisloe Cup series, McKenzie has warned his players to be on guard for New Zealand’s mind games.
McKenzie said the blockbuster billing was tailor-made for hype and expectation going through the roof, with straight-shooting All Blacks coach Steve Hansen a likely protagonist going on past years.
“I noticed he was sprightly against England (last week), so he’s warming up, yes,” McKenzie said.
“Coaches like myself who don’t have to run on the field might say things at times to make things interesting … the talk ends up getting done by people that don’t have to actually go out there and play the game.
“We’re going to have to put up with lots of people talking and speculating about our prospects. It won’t be coming from us.
“The reality of the task is that you’re playing against the No.1 side in the world.”
But Australia’s current winning run is the longest since the Wallabies were last world champions in 1999-2000, and the impact of Israel Folau and giant lock Will Skelton against France suggests Australia may finally possess the strike power to end a New Zealand dynasty.
McKenzie said he was pleased with the consistency and self-belief of his squad, and was relishing a chance to properly prepare his side after last year being appointed just two weeks before the first Bledisloe Test.
But he warned a lot could change before his players return from their Super Rugby commitments over the next month.
“Fitness will be a big part of the equation for both teams,” McKenzie said.
“(Star New Zealand forward) Kieran Read has missed a lot of rugby for instance, that’s an example that you can have great players that suddenly aren’t there,” he said.
“We’ve developed our depth and different types of options. Sam Carter should be back, Joe Tomane will be available, Luke Burgess has come back early and Will Genia is a chance.
“We’re preparing ourselves as best we can but you still have to face the music on the night.”
While fullback Folau impressed again, scoring a brace for his 13th try in 18 Tests, towering Skelton made a big impact on debut.
New Zealand-born Skelton — all six feet eight inches (203 centimetres) and 140 kilograms (308 pounds) of him — scored a try and laid on one for Folau with a deft pass as the Wallabies cleaned up Les Bleus five tries to one.
“He had a significant influence in a game against a tier-one country in his first game,” McKenzie said of 22-year-old Skelton.
“You can’t do much more than that, play one Test, score one try and set another one up, that was pretty good.”