Sportal.co.nz - (31/05/2010)
Avoiding being caught in a state of unpreparedness will be the task for the All Blacks squad named on Sunday when they get back together on Wednesday.
Traditionally the All Blacks have been slow starters whenever a new campaign rolls around, especially at home, and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is well aware of the danger of allowing an Ireland team looking for a first win over New Zealand even the sniff of a chance.
He's not going to be helped by the fact that several key players named in the squad have still to completely recover from injuries, most notably his senior group players like fullback Mils Muliaina and lock Tom Donnelly.
"The guys that are fit to play the first game we've got to make sure we're ready. We've got about 10 days from when we get together to be right and those guys who are not 100 percent are going to have to work their way to get back there," he said.
Ireland was always a tough opponent, no matter the circumstances, he said and fortunately there was a good core of the side who had been in the situation that will face the side 'a fair few times', he said.
"You've got to make sure you get all the simple things dead right for a start so that you can perform and if we can do that hopefully we'll be able to perform because that's the key.
McCaw said one of the lessons from last year was that the team, despite injuries to key players, had tried to be at the finish point from the outset, rather than building toward a peak.
While the All Blacks' preparation will be aided by the fact New Zealand had no teams in the final of the Super 14, McCaw felt, from a loose forwards' perspective that the re-emphasis in the laws had made the game more physical.
"There's perhaps not quite so many turnovers, or teams can look after the ball so you've got either more time defending, or more time with the ball. Teams are more organised on defence so there's some bigger hits going in so from that side of things I think the game has changed a wee bit.
"But the thing we saw over the Super 14 was the breakdown where they went from one end of the spectrum to get a change of habit and that was really good and now it has come back to being a contest there and with good players, offensive tackling, it allows a good contest.
"I think you've seen in the last few weeks the good players, especially the good loose forwards are starting to have an impact at breakdown time when they do it right," he said.
McCaw will be joined in the loose forwards by one newcomer in Hurricanes blindside flanker/No.8 Victor Vito and has been impressed with what he has seen of the 23-year-old who had a prominent career with the New Zealand Sevens team."He's a highly skilled player for a loosie," he said.
McCaw had been aware of Vito when he made such an impact at Under-19 level.
"The thing that has impressed me is that he's a pretty intelligent sort of player and over the last couple of years he's developed to have a more physical presence out there. He's got the ability and skill to play with the ball. He's good at lineout stuff and I think he's starting to bring that physical edge as well so it is good to see him get a crack," he said.