Wed, 30 Jul 2008 6:21p.m
Richie McCaw's return remains about the only good news for the defeated and depleted All Blacks this week. Back from injury, the skipper will need bring his A+ game to the second Bledisloe test if the makeshift team are to turn around their flagging Tri-Nations.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. It might sound a bit dramatic, but McCaw is the man to save the series for New Zealand. Sorely missed in Sydney, his return from injury is crucial to the All Blacks' chances.
"I guess given the fact I've come off a layoff, I've just got to get myself right first for what is going to be one of the bigger games I play," says McCaw.
No one needed to ask the captain if he was disappointed with the team effort in Sydney last weekend.
"Maybe tactically we got a few things wrong," says McCaw, "but if you are going to turn the ball over like we did, nothing you do tactically is going to work."
And after being soundly beaten at the breakdown in Bledisloe one, the selectors have shuffled up the loose forwards and returned players to their regular Super 14 positions, with Jerome Kaino at number six and Rodney So'oialo at eight.
"It definitely feels like a big one," says So'oialo. "It's a must-win game for us."
Kaino certainly is not short of motivation.
"I'm just going to play like its my last test. Last couple of games I haven't been up to it," he says.
And even in the age of ELVs, the basics of winning rugby remain the tried and true - it is all decided up front. I think as forwards we've got to match up at the set piece and the breakdown," says McCaw. "We got beaten there last week."
But McCaw also acknowledges the Wallabies will be even harder to beat this week.