Sunday, November 23, 2008

McCaw: Now let's bring on England

Richie McCaw and his triumphant All Blacks are now taking aim at England as they look to record just their third-ever successful Grand Slam campaign. The 29-9 win over a brave Wales at Millennium Stadium means the All Blacks are just one win away from the rare achievement.
They travel to England on Monday, ahead of next Sunday morning's showdown against the Martin Johnson-coached England at Twickenham.

England was on the receiving end of a 42-6 hammering at the hands of the Springboks shortly before the All Blacks/Wales clash kicked off. McCaw was a star turn for the men in black in their 20-point win over Wales. That included operating expertly in tandem with loose forward colleagues Jerome Kaino and Rodney So'oialo.

And the inspirational captain said the All Blacks were determined to end their season on a high.
"We came over here and knew that we had four tests over here," a confident McCaw said."It was never going to be easy. But if we do it right next week, get over this game, then there is nothing better than playing at Twickenham. We came over here to play four good tests and we are three-quarters of the way through. We will get over tonight, there will be some sore bodies, but we will look forward (to England). It is always a tough one in Twickenham, we will look forward to it."

It was anything but plain sailing for the All Blacks at Millennium Stadium. They went into halftime down 9-6 at the break, with the fired up Welsh dominating the attacking stakes in the first 40 minutes. Again it was the All Blacks' outstanding defence, which is yet to leak a test try on the UK leg of their season-ending tour, that shone.

The All Blacks then gained dominance in the second half, again keeping test opposition on tour scoreless in the second 40 minutes.
"We have been in those situations before this year," McCaw said."But we just had to keep our composure and perhaps there were times when we lost it a little bit in the first half. But we regrouped at halftime and there was a lot to play for. And occasions like this, in a stadium like this, are just awesome. We expected that (Wales' passionate start). They had us a little bit rattled just before halftime. But the composure held in the second half and we got on top of the game."

Veteran hooker Keven Mealamu said the opposition offered by Wales was by far the strongest the All Blacks had faced in the past three weeks in the UK. Part of a well-performing All Black line-out, he said it was a matter of soaking up the Welsh pressure while also building the foundations for the match-winning second 40 minutes.

"That first half was hard work," he said."We talked about it at halftime and knew we had to keep working hard. The boys did that. (In the second half) we had a bit more control. In the first half we were a little bit pushed and weren't playing the sort of rugby we are used to. Our defence always comes down to passion and the boys wanted to play for each other and played really well. It was a great way to finish."

Meanwhile, Welsh captain Ryan Jones said their reaction to the All Blacks' pre-match haka had helped fire up the hosts. Following the end of the haka, Wales stood arm-in-arm on their own side of the field and refused to be the first team to prepare for kick-off. The All Blacks also stood their own ground, with numerous players looking on in amazement at Wales' defiant stance.
The stand-off was eventually ceased by South African ref Jonathan Kaplan who ordered both sides to prepare for the start of the match.

Jones said as the All Blacks had the right to do the haka, their opposition also had the right to stand their own ground.
"We thought about it during the week," Jones said."Opposition teams always seem to walk away first. This is our home ground, our home pitch and we were determined to take the ground.
"It is part and parcel of it, we came out firing."

The loss has maintained Wales' 55-year failure since they last triumphed over the All Blacks.
Jones said he couldn't have asked for more from his charges or the way the Warren Gatland-heading coaching staff had prepared the team.
"We came out and certainly gave it everything," Jones said."We certainly pressured this team and I think we made it difficult for them for large periods. But the scoreboard says it was not good enough."


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