Lions tour: All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith embracing the challenge of a series decider against the Lions
Despite the pressure of an expectant home crowd craving revenge, Aaron Smith is embracing the challenge of the winner-takes-all third Test at Eden Park.
The All Blacks lost for the first time at home since 2009 on Saturday night, with the British and Irish Lions prevailing 24-21 in an enthralling contest in Wellington.
That result has given the tourists a swagger many Kiwi pundits and fans didn't expect to see and the expectation of an All Black reply will be immense come kick-off.
Smith is fizzing ahead of the series decider, the All Blacks halfback whishing the game would come sooner.
"It's what you play rugby for, these big games," Smith told reporters in Auckland.
"I could play today, that's how ready I am.
"These are the ones you remember. It's going to be a long week in terms of prep but it will be all worth it if we are able to go out there and play our brand of footy, and if it's enough then it's enough."
The All Blacks have been outscored four tries to three by the tourists and that's something that hasn't escaped the thoughts of Lions coach Warren Gatland.
The 53-year-old noted that the All Blacks hadn't really stressed his side's defensive structure in either Test match, pointing to his own team's mistakes that led to the All Blacks' five-pointers in the first Test.
Smith's retort to Gatland's comment suggests the All Blacks don't think too much of that assertion.
"He can say all the things he wants, we are just focused on what we can do. We showed glimpses of that in Test one and we need to get back to that," Smith said.
"I think the conditions really suited the way they wanted to play.
"They wanted to make it a struggle at the ruck and we didn't get our assertiveness right with our ball carries.
"The way the game went, we didn't help ourselves, we didn't attack where they weren't (defending) and that's something we will fix this week."
With the four-week suspension of Sonny Bill Williams ruling him out in Auckland, the All Blacks will field a changed midfield for the third Test straight.
Ryan Crotty's hamstring injury is unlikely to clear up and the selectors have called in Smith's Highlanders teammate Malakai Fekitoa.
With only one cap shared between Ngani Laumape and Jack Goodhue, Fekitoa is expected to partner Anton Lienert-Brown in the centres for the significant match.
Smith said Fekitoa, a 23-Test veteran, has already made his presence felt in less than 24-hours with the team.
"At the gym [this morning] he worked really hard and gave a bit of energy to the group.
"It's a really good thing to see someone so happy and excited to be back.
"He doesn't say much, but through his facial expressions and body language how happy he was to be back in house."
Smith believes the 25-year-old will want to make the most of the opportunity after being overlooked for the original squad.
"If he gets the opportunity he probably has a bit of a chip on his shoulder with a no fear attitude. He knows what he has to do.
"He is a very physical player, very confrontational. He will go hard and do his job very well.
While the loss to the Lions in Wellington won't be forgotten by the world champions, Smith indicated that their thoughts are very much on writing wrongs at Eden Park.
"It's our opportunity... we can't look back, we have to look forward and take the learnings from Saturday and turn up with the right attitude and get the week right.
"That will give us the best chance to go out there and play well."
The All Blacks 23 for the final Test will be announced at 5am on Thursday morning.