By JIM KAYES in Aix-en-Provence -
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw says the team to play Scotland will be "fairly close" to New Zealand's top side and he's putting the heat on the scrum to front up at Murrayfield.
The side will be revealed tonight (NZ time) with only Keith Robinson and Mils Muliaina unavailable as they both nurse leg injuries.
McCaw said the rotation policy of recent years had made defining the No 1 choices more difficult but he clearly expected the All Blacks to field their top side in a match that will be their toughest pool fixture ahead of the playoffs.
"It's been the case for a few years that there are quite a few positions in the team that are a flip of a coin who plays," said McCaw.
"Depending on who you are playing and where everyone is at will determine who plays.
"I'm picking this week will be fairly close to it, but a few injuries here and there may change things as we go on.
"We have a squad of 30 where any one can take the track and we have confidence in them."
There was a noticeable lift in the intensity and physicality in the All Blacks training in front of about 3000 spectators at Stade Carcassone yesterday.
The scrum session which included the players closing their eyes and not speaking as they pushed was prolonged as the All Blacks looked to iron out a few kinks.
"In this week we've got to take another step up. It's going to be a tougher challenge.
"The scrum side of things we've haven't been totally happy with and sometime you're strengths you forget about because you're working on other things.
"We just decided we needed to put more time into that."
McCaw was not worried about who plays for Scotland and was confident the All Blacks would get a decent match on Monday.
"These guys will still be playing for Scotland and they will be wanting to prove themselves to play as the tournament goes on.
"It's going to be a hard game for us."