McCaw wants to curb excitement
Failing to keep excitement in check has been a hallmark of the 2007 All Blacks and it's a deficiency they're keen to shed when their World Cup campaign opens on Saturday.
Perhaps a reflection of how little rugby they have played this year, almost every New Zealand player interviewed this week has spoken of their keenness to run on to Stade Velodrome for first pool C game against Italy.
While Italy can expect an onslaught, the danger for the All Blacks is that the energy gets channelled the wrong way. McCaw said the senior players had to play a key role in the leadup to all games over the next seven weeks, particularly when the hype is high.
"We've just got to make sure we put that excitement in the right direction to allow us to play well. That's the key this week," McCaw said. "We've got to make sure we stay composed and not run around all over the show."
McCaw maintained his long-held belief that the combined experience of his team should have them gelling quickly after seven weeks since many of them last played.
"There's no real excuses any more, we've played a lot of rugby together so hopefully it won't take long to get back into the groove," he said. "It won't happen perfectly straight away. There will be a wee bit of rust in the system, I guess, after not playing for a while but hopefully that won't be too much."
McCaw said a strong start was important for the sake of confidence and then ideally they would improve throughout the tournament.
"We don't want to go back in terms of performance any less than where we were in the Philips Tri Nations this year. We want to start there, if not better."
The player with perhaps the itchiest feet this week is Conrad Smith, who could potentially put an end to the long-standing debate over who wears the All Blacks' centre jersey if he can reproduce the form hinted at in a sporadic nine-test career. Assistant coach Wayne Smith has staunchly backed the raw Isaia Toeava throughout this season but admitted it was pleasing to have Smith back for his first Test start for nearly a year.
"He's done a hell of a lot of work, he's hungry and up to the challenge. Now it's his opportunity," Wayne Smith said. "He's a very self-reliant individual, he doesn't take a lot of pushing. He uses his time wisely both in a rugby sense and outside the game. "He was admitted to the bar, for example, during that time away (recovering from a hamstring injury). So he's got it pretty much together."
McCaw happy with breakdown stance
New Zealand's ace flanker and acknowledged king of the breakdown Richie McCaw is confident his style will not fall foul of World Cup referees.McCaw attended the pre-tournament briefing by referees' boss Paddy O'Brien, with coach Graham Henry on Tuesday and came away satisfied that he was happy with his understanding of the referees' intent.
Opposition players and coaches, led by South African coach Jake White, have been critical of McCaw's seeming untouchability by referees at the breakdown and his role has been under scrutiny.The All Blacks response, through forwards coach Steve Hansen, was that McCaw was just too quick and efficient in his role for opposing sides to be able to stop him.
McCaw said of Tuesday's meeting: "I don't think the breakdown will be too dissimilar to what has been the case all year."They're going to do what they always do."They said they are going to be pretty vigilant on how guys arrive at the breakdown, both on attack and defence so not just the defending players but the attacking players as well."
They also said they wanted to allow a contest as the laws intended."They said they're not going to cop out in terms of a ruck formed straight away," he said and his view was that as long as they do what they say then it was not going to be any different to normal.
The referees added they had noticed some things creeping in that they were not going to allow such as taking players out at lineouts and not allowing fair contests.The issue of players, other than the captain, talking to referees had not been raised but from McCaw's viewpoint that was an area the All Blacks prided themselves on not being involved."There's no point getting stuck into the ref because you lose focus," he said.
McCaw said there would naturally be some excitement about finally being involved in the tournament that has been to the forefront of people's minds for so long but the All Blacks would be looking to make sure they stay composed and achieve what they set out to do
The team that is starting on Saturday has played a lot of rugby together so hopefully it won't take long to get back into the groove."It's not going to happen perfectly straight away, there will be a wee bit of rust in the system after not playing for awhile. Hopefully that won't be too much," he said."The first thing we want to do is make sure we start well and get some confidence out of that and a sense of where we are at and what we need to work on."Ideally, we'll start well and keep improving through the tournament."We don't want to go back any less in performance that we were for the Tri Nations this year. We want to start at least there, if not better. That's our goal and it's important," he said.