SYDNEY • The All Blacks have rarely been at their best in the Rugby Championship in World Cup years and coach Steve Hansen is not about to push the panic button despite his side shipping a record 47 points in their defeat by Australia on Saturday.
New Zealand were fortunate the 47-26 loss did not cost them their decade-long reign at the top of the world rankings after England beat Wales 33-19 last night.
But Hansen was less concerned about the possible loss of their top-dog status and more worried about the "dumb footy" decisions his players made in Perth.
Scott Barrett becoming only the fourth All Blacks player to be sent off in a Test was the most obvious transgression, but there was also a penalty given away by flanker Ardie Savea for a slap to the head of Australia skipper Michael Hooper.
"We've got to be smarter than that," Hansen told reporters. "Our changing shed is very disappointed and that's how it should be. We didn't perform to the standard that we should have and Australia gave us a lesson in what to do when you have a side down by one man.
"I know the scoreboard is fairly massive - 47 points. Not often we get that many scored against us. But at 16-12, we are in the game at half-time, and then Scotty gets sent off and it's a different game."
The World Cup seasons of 2011, 2015 and this year have been the only times New Zealand have not won the Rugby Championship this last decade, with All Blacks coaches preferring to experiment as they keep their eyes on the main prize.
Starting Savea at blindside flanker for the first time was one such experiment. It might not continue after he was penalised with regularity throughout the match.
Barrett's red card for a shoulder charge on the head of Hooper also presented Hansen with another headache ahead of their World Cup opener against South Africa in Yokohama on Sept 21.
The 25-year-old lock faced a judicial hearing yesterday and could be banned for up to six weeks, further depleting the stocks of second-row forwards after former World Player of the Year Brodie Retallick dislocated his shoulder two weeks ago.
"You've got about five balls in the air at the moment," Hansen said. "We don't know if Brodie's going to be all right, maybe he is, maybe he isn't.
"We don't know what's going to happen with Scotty, that's another ball that's in the air. All we've got to do is stay calm, and wait and see where those balls land."
The good news for the three-time world champions is they will have a chance for immediate revenge over the Wallabies in the second Bledisloe Cup Test this Saturday at Auckland's Eden Park, where they have not lost to Australia since 1986.
Calling the match-up "a big game, always", Hansen added: "We have been here before. In 2015, it was exactly the same scenario.
"As I said, don't push the panic button, push the button that says we're going to win and get our discipline right, get our game structure right and turn up and play well."