Steve Hansen

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen expects his charges to be “sharpened” when they run out for the decisive third Test against the Lions.

After losing 24-21 to the Lions in Wellington in a series levelling result, it all comes down to Auckland this weekend for bragging rights.

Hansen has seen a positive of last Saturday’s result and believes his men should relish the challenge that awaits them at Eden Park.

“If we want to see our game continue to grow, to foster the things that it does in the way of camaraderie, to teach us lessons about life, good and bad, we have got to keep encouraging our game to be strong,” he told the All Blacks website.

“The big thing about when you lose is that it’s painful isn’t it? It sharpens the mind, it sharpens the attitude. You look at things probably a little deeper than you normally do.

“We try to learn when we win, but in this case we had a side that beat us because on the day they were a little better than us.

“We have to acknowledge that and then go: ‘Okay, how can we be better than them?’ We’ll do that through the week, do our best to stay 15 on 15 and then see if we can get some strategies going.”

Defeat at home is a rare thing for New Zealand but coach Hansen again views last weekend’s loss as something they can use to their benefit.

“Sometimes we brush over the cracks that are there. When you lose, the cracks get exposed,” Hansen said.

“There’s not a genuine Test match that doesn’t challenge you physically, that doesn’t challenge you mentally. It’s great for rugby, and it’s great for this team of ours. We’re having to learn, as a young team, how to cope with that. So it’s good.”

He added: “Rugby has been needing something like this for a while. It’s now got it, so everyone will be a bit nervy about that because it could go either way and how exciting is that?

“It’s moments like this that go down in history and excite young people to say: ‘Hey, I want to be part of this’, not only as a player, but also as a fan.”

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