Friday, December 04, 2009

By TOBY ROBSON in London -

It may be billed as a festival match, but if the All Blacks have it their way the star studded Barbarians won't be thrilling the Twickenham crowd with tries.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was happy to play the Christmas Grinch today when asked if s try-fest would be a fitting result for the festival match.

"No, I'd rather we were scoring the tries. If we score plenty it will be entertaining I reckon," he said.
"That's [defence] one of the things we've had pride in this year. We don't go in there thinking we must not let them score, but the attitude is set with the defence, so it would be nice to stop them scoring."

The All Blacks have conceded just two tries on northern soil since 2006, both coming in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal loss to France in Cardiff.
The last try scored against them on a northern tour was Wales' flanker Martyn Williams' five pointer in 2006.
McCaw clearly wants to keep it that way.

"We'll wait and see, but it'd be nice to keep a clean slate."

The All Blacks will be doing well to keep their line in tact against a team containing many of the world's best attacking players.

The loose trio of No 8 George Smith, openside Schalk Burger and blindside Rocky Elsom is sure to create plenty of continuity for the cast of stars in the backs.

Halfback Fourie du Preez will feed a backline of Matt Giteau, Jamie Roberts, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Joe Rokococko and Drew Mitchell.

McCaw said the key for the All Blacks was to stay within their structure and not get sucked in to a Barbarian style of play.

"There will be a wee bit of pressure early. You have to get the set piece right... I think as a team they will be prepared to chuck the ball about.
"Having a bit of structure, that stops them from having that ability. If you stop them throwing it around at the start then it makes it hard for them to get on top, so I guess that's how we will approach it."

McCaw, who played for the Barbarians last season, said it was wrong to think the Barbarians players did not take the match seriously.

"You might have a bit of laugh and a joke, perhaps that you might not have in the changing room before a test match, but certainly you are on the job.
"To be honest it's a little bit different, but all these guys are experienced internationals. They know what they need to do to get ready to play.
"It is relaxed, but you see the guys when it comes round to game time they make sure they have it sorted.
"If you go out there expecting it to be easy, well it's certainly not like that. That was how I approached it. I made sure I did [prepare well]."

For the All Blacks, McCaw said it was a chance to ensure the good impression made on the game in Marseille last weekend was not lost in a lack lustre final hit out.

"Come game time the guys will be focused. Each week is a bit different, but you know when the guys are switched on.
"I've seen by the way they've trained this week they are pretty keen to play. I guess for the guys who played the test [last week], a lot of them are in the reserves or whatever they have to make sure they do it right.
"You want to give them [the starting team] the best chance, so I'm sure it will be just like normal build up."

The All Blacks and Barbarians have played nine times since 1954 with just one win and a draw to the invitation side.

The upset came in 1973 when Welsh halfback Gareth Edwards scored what is regarded as one of the best tries of all time in the 23-11 win.

Last time the team's met was in 2004 when the All Blacks won 47-19.

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