All Blacks to get better: Perenara
For a team expected not only to win but win convincingly, the year 2017 has fallen somewhat short of the usual lofty standards expected of the All Blacks.
The Kiwis split a three-game series against the British and Irish Lions in July (one win, one draw, one loss) and lost to fierce rivals Australia 18-23 in Brisbane last month.
They have also eked out a few more close wins than their fans would like, over 16 matches in a year that has yielded 13 victories, including a 22-17 triumph in Scotland earlier this month.
But All Blacks half-back T.J. Perenara, in Singapore with teammates Damian McKenzie and Matt Todd for a training clinic organised by AIG yesterday, does not believe that there is cause for worry.
"Everyone is talking about how world rugby is getting better, but I'm happy to play any team on any given day," said the 25-year-old at the Float at Marina Bay.
"The people who are saying all (the negative things) are in the media or otherwise not involved in the game and as a team, we're only going to get better."
All Blacks coach Steven Hansen has blooded a new group of players this year as he looks ahead to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, when they will be aiming for a record third straight and fourth overall title.
Perenara, capped 42 times by his country, is one of a handful of players in this year's squad left over from New Zealand's World Cup triumph in 2015, and he acknowledged that this year's team have less experience.
"We're a lot younger now, but also we're just playing a different way," said the Porirua native, who leads the iconic All Blacks haka war dance before each game.
"I know it's been only two seasons (since 2015), but the game has become a lot quicker and, as a team, we've needed to change, adapt and grow."