Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Richie says it's time to step up

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw is demanding his side "steps up" a peg or two and expects the All Blacks to be given a tough test by Scotland even if their opponents put out a second-string side in Sunday's match at Murrayfield.

"I think we'll get a good workout regardless," McCaw told reporters.

"These guys are still playing for Scotland and they will all want to prove themselves to play as the tournament goes on. So I think it will be a hard game for us.

"I think the Scots are going to be a good challenge, they always are at home."

The openside flanker, who expected coach Graham Henry to select a near-full strength side for Sunday's match, said they would be looking to improve on their performance in their opening two matches against Italy and Portugal.

"The coaching staff and senior players have had a talk that this week is pretty important and we have to take a step up. The Scots are going to be a good challenge and we'll find exactly where we're at after this game.

"It has added a bit of excitement to the week. Everyone realised that it is going to be a tougher challenge and that we've got to do it right and because of that everyone has a bit more of an edge. It's good."

There has been talk that the Scots may field a weakened side to rest players ahead of their key game against Italy on September 29.

At the halfway point in the pool stage, McCaw said the team morale could hardly be better.

"I think we are really happy with where we are at. The big thing we said we wanted to do was make sure we enjoy the experience of being at the World Cup, work hard in training and enjoy what we're doing. I think up until now we've done that pretty well."

Second row Ali Williams said he expected the Scotland match to bring out the best from the All Blacks.

"Personally I can't wait for it. Better teams demand more of you but this is one of those sides that the better the side we play against the more our strengths come out."

Sunday's game will give winger Doug Howlett a chance to set a new All Black try-scoring record after he equalled Christian Cullen's record of 46 test tries with his hat-trick in the 76-14 win against Italy.

"It would be great to get it outright," he said. "It's not something I focus on but if it does come about I'll take it with open arms. It is an accomplishment. But the bigger picture is more important for me at the time being.

"I've played a few times against Scotland and I can't recall an easy game against them. They are quite tough to play and to throw into the mix it's at Murrayfield in front of their home crowd and it will add to a big occasion."

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