Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Balance the key - McCaw

If balance counts for anything then the All Blacks are confident they have the formula right to win the Rugby World Cup.

Having a rare day off on Monday at their base in the less frenetic and aesthetically outstanding Aix en Provence was the forerunner to a Tuesday training session which hinted at the real work starting in earnest in this campaign.

Italy was a chance to demonstrate the waiting was over and the Cup was here, while Portugal was an occasion to celebrate the arrival of rugby's newest World Cup participant in a game that was like one of those old-fashioned pre-season festival games which used to litter that start of New Zealand's rugby season.

But now, the sights are firmly set on one of rugby's original partners in the empirical game, Scotland.

No-one quite knows yet whether Scotland will field it's A or B team, that will depend on how it fares against Romania on Tuesday, but in reality New Zealand is in no position to complain after fielding different sides regularly during their last two northern hemisphere tours.

Not that anyone is complaining. Quite rightly, the All Blacks are taking the view that this is another Test.

That's why there was extra emphasis put on the scrum at training. It has been a strength for the side but with other matters to be attended to, it had been put on the back burner. Time away from it for six weeks, and some dissatisfaction with how it felt resulted in more attention being paid at training.

Captain Richie McCaw set the trend on the approach to Sunday when saying: "These guys are still playing for Scotland.

"They'll all be wanting to prove themselves as the tournament goes on.

"I think it is going to be a hard game for us and from our point of view you don't look too much at that. It's still Scotland you're playing and we've just got to make sure we do it right."

Without the hard hit out that other rivals have nearly all experienced in their pools, the All Blacks are looking at the game for an assessment of their readiness for the knockout stages.

"We're really happy with where we're at but we will know a little more after this week," McCaw said.

But again that balance remains a factor. That includes absorbing the atmosphere and actually appreciating what the Rugby World Cup is all about.

"The big thing is before we came over here we said, 'make sure you enjoy the experience of being in a World Cup and being in France. Work hard while we're training and playing but enjoy what we're doing here' and I think up until now we've done that pretty well." He said.

"I think we've got the balance right between enjoying ourselves and doing the business. So as long as that carries on we'll be going ok."

He described the fun element that has been apparent for the New Zealanders who have gone out of their way to mix with locals and to get away from the 'unsmiling giants' label that has been a burden in the past.

"Having fun is a key, without a doubt," he said.

"That's why you play the game, that's why you're involved with rugby because it's a lot of fun and if it stops being that you are going to want to stop going out and training hard and playing well. I think it all goes hand in hand.

"I think the buzz with the World Cup that is floating around is great and the way we've been welcomed to places has sort of blown me away a wee bit, so it's been great," he said.

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