Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Set piece basics key for All Blacks

Sportal.co.nz - 12/09/2009

Keeping the quest for a fifth Investec Tri Nations title in succession alive would come down to doing the basics right, especially at set pieces, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said in Hamilton on Friday.

Making his comments at the traditional captain's run on a dry Waikato Stadium, he was mindful that poor weather has been forecast for the vital Test match which has been sold out.New Zealand lost the first two Tri Nations Tests against South Africa, but this was the first time the teams have met on the All Blacks' turf and that pulled things a little back in favour of the home team.However, being at home did not diminish the respect in which the All Blacks held the world champions.

"I think all the teams you play there is some respect for the way the teams play but you've just got to put that to the side and try to get on top of them and you've got to be confident in being able to do that," McCaw said.

The fact that Nigel Owen, the same referee in charge at Durban, was officiating was not an issue. The All Blacks had to get on with what they were doing without complaining about possibly not getting the 'rub of the green' in the earlier encounter.

"We were under pressure, we didn't make the advantage line and that makes it tougher to play," McCaw said."If we can get those things right it will make the breakdown a lot easier for us."

The tweaks to the breakdown law had not caused McCaw to change the way he played. He said getting to the breakdown first allowed you a little more leeway because if you got your hands on the ball you could carry on.

"That's not such a big change. I think if you've got the ball you've got to make sure you get rid of that first tackler straight away otherwise he can make a real menace [of himself]."

The key to success was being able to match the Springboks physically – nothing had changed in that regard in the history of contests between the two countries.

"That starts at the set piece and being able to win our ball and getting to the right end of the field where you can build some pressure."We were under pressure the whole time in the last two Tests and we were trying to play from that but it made it tough," he said.

Central to that is reducing self-enforced errors. Avoiding the snowball effect that can cause jitters and more mistakes is important for the side, he said.

"If we can start well that helps."

McCaw said the players were well aware of what was required to win the Tri Nations but that had to be at the back of their minds."First and foremost we've got to go out and win the Test match," he said.

The aim was naturally to go out and score tries, every week, but that wasn't always possible and the key was to ensure the win was achieved. The prospect of wet weather was an issue but it was the same for both teams and he said it shouldn't have an effect on thinking.

"When it comes to handling the 50-50 passes you might throw on a dry day, you have to hold onto. Just little things like that."It still doesn't change getting your set piece right and playing at the right end of the field and perhaps that's moreso on a wet day," he said.

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