All Blacks playing for keeps, warns McCaw
September 30, 2007 - 4:36PM
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw vowed that now the business end of the Rugby World Cup was under way, his team would be "playing for keeps".
New Zealand have cruised through their pool games, amassing a staggering 309 points and 45 tries, and conceding only 35 points.
They hammered Italy (76-14), Portugal (108-13), Scotland (40-0) and Romania (85-8) to head into the quarter-finals in Cardiff with many observers claiming they might be "undercooked".
But McCaw said the knock-out phase of the 20-team tournament would see the All Blacks firm up their resolve.
"We are playing for keeps from now on in," the openside flanker said.
"Our guys are pretty confident, everyone's had a bit of rugby and we have to be on the job next week. Most of the guys are available.
"We have now put pool play aside and we are pretty happy and we just now have to get on with the business now."
Coach Graham Henry said his team must improve ahead of next weekend's quarter-final, the opponent for which is likely to be France, but will be decided on Sunday.
"It was pleasing but there is obviously still room for improvement," said the former Wales coach after his side's demolition of Romania.
"Finals are finals, and there are some very good rugby sides.
"Are we worried about it [the quarter-finals]? In the back of your mind, you're always concerned by knock-out rugby.
"Hopefully we'll play well in the first knock-out game in a week's time."
***** Bonus*****Henry dark on tough questions
Jim Kayes in Toulouse September 30, 2007
About 30 seconds before the media conference started, Graham Henry had on a pair of dark sunglasses.
It was a light-hearted reaction to the glare of the lights for the television cameras. The All Blacks coach was uncomfortable.
Henry and his players have not had to endure the heat of the World Cup spotlight during the tournament's first four weeks.
That's about to change.
At last the pool games are over and some real rugby can begin - at least, as far as the All Blacks are concerned.
Two of the four quarter-finals are decided with Fiji's upset win against Wales booking them a date with South Africa in Marseille a day after Australia play England there.
Scotland have also qualified but who they take on in Paris, and the All Blacks face in Cardiff this weekend, was being sorted out this morning.
Whether the All Blacks have a date with France, Argentina or even Ireland, one thing is for sure. They will have to play better than they have in the pool play.
The All Blacks have scored 46 tries in their four pool games - including 13 in the 85-8 hammering of Romania at Stadium de Toulouse on Saturday - and have racked up 309 points.
Along the way there have been patches of superb play and wonderful tries, but the All Blacks have yet to be tested with their mistakes and sloppy play largely unpunished by Italy, Portugal, Scotland and Romania.
The errors were not as glaring in Toulouse on Saturday as they were in Edinburgh a week earlier, but they were still there with 13 handling mistakes.
The protection of the ball in the ruck was awful and though Henry was testy when asked about it afterwards he cannot avoid two facts.
The first is that he was the one who had called for better ball protection in the rucks, along with a reduced error count. The second is that Romania turned the All Blacks ball over seven times at the ruck.
Henry admitted Romania had "put heat on our scrum and the ball at the tackle, which made life difficult", but reacted snidely when reminded of his call before the game for the All Blacks to be more efficient at the ruck.
"We want perfection, don't we?" Henry sneered. "We want zero turnovers, we want to win by 250-nil, and that's what we try and do.
"We try and play the perfect game so if you get one turnover you're irritated by it and if you get seven you're irritated seven times."
On a more pleasant note there are no fresh injuries, lock Keith Robinson got through 55 minutes of reasonable work, and some of the backs stretched their legs.
Of the 13 tries scored, 11 went to backs with wings Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu getting three and two respectively. Henry has a wonderful dilemma when he tries to pick his wings this week.
Nick Evans also showed he can cover at first five-eight should Daniel Carter's calf injury be worse than it seems, and both fullbacks are fit again.
The pack was also given a decent work out and flankers Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins, and Richie McCaw impressed, along with lock Reuben Thorne, and hookers Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore.
But, just as it has been for the previous three games, the performance has to be measured against the opposition.
Romania were never a match for the All Blacks who could have won by more had a few passes stuck or better options taken. They might also have conceded more tries had they coughed up as much ball against a better team.
The step up for the All Blacks is mental. It was always going to be tricky staying focused while riding an avalanche of points.
That shouldn't be an issue in Cardiff this week, though Henry conceded there was an element of the unknown about the playoffs.
"In the back of your mind you're always worried about knockout rugby. We have been involved in knockout rugby for the last 20 years and we haven't survived.
"We're pleased with our progress but we understand that we've going to have to step up against the French."
nb : the pics are not related to the articles ;). thank you for your understanding.