Hansen targets areas to pressure Wallabies

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has identified several areas where his side must apply pressure to beat a Wallabies unit he reckons has improved greatly.

New Zealand blew Australia away in the first half of each of the last two Bledisloe season openers and have held the coveted trophy since 2003.

But the hard work of his Australian counterpart Michael Cheika in endeavouring to close the gap between the trans-Tasman rivals hasn't gone unnoticed by Hansen.

"I think they are a good side, they've improved a heck of a lot," Hansen said.

"They've done a lot of hard work on their running lines and their core set piece roles.

"Their scrum has got better, looking at it against Ireland.

"They've quickened up their lineout a lot and obviously their kicking game is good, so we're going to have put a lot of pressure on all those areas to compete.

Hansen has opted for a proven centre pairing in what he described as the "rock solid" combination of Crusaders duo Ryan Crotty and youngster Jack Goodhue, while Cheika has installed Reece Hodge at outside centre, where the utility back has never started a test.

"It might give us a little bit of an advantage, but they've got quality players, haven't they?" Hansen said.

Asked to comment on current Wallabies and former All Blacks skills coach Michael Byrne's assertion that Australia's skill levels are now up with New Zealand's, a droll Hansen said: "Mick would know. He's a very wise man, Mick."