May 31, 2010
Hasten slowly will be skipper Richie McCaw's advice to the All Blacks as they look to guard against a sluggish start to their test rugby programme this year.
The 26-strong New Zealand squad named yesterday will assemble in Auckland for the first time on Thursday, ahead of their opening test, against Ireland in New Plymouth on June 12.
McCaw believed the key to getting a campaign off to a good start was making sure all the simple things were done right and then to keep building on that.
"If you try to get everything sorted straight away, that's where it becomes messy and disjointed," he said.
"I think that was an experience we had last year. Perhaps that first couple of weeks, we had a few injuries like we do this year, but we tried to be at the finish point straight away and perhaps didn't quite get it right, the basic things."
Last June, the All Blacks, who were without an injured McCaw, dropped their opening test to France 27-22 in Dunedin.
They won second test 14-10 in Wellington, but lost the series, and the Dave Gallaher Cup, on points difference.
The squad named to face Ireland and then Wales in a two-test series features four new caps in Manawatu first five-eighth Aaron Cruden, Auckland second five-eighth Benson Stanley, Wellington loose forward Victor Vito and Hawke's Bay fullback Israel Dagg.
The selectors' option were curtailed by injuries to the likes of winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, midfield backs Ma'a Nonu and Isaia Toeva, locks Ali Williams and Jason Eaton, hooker Andrew Hore, first five-eighth Stephen Donald and utility back Mike Delany.
McCaw said the All Blacks wouldn't be using the number of casualties as an excuse if things didn't go to plan.
"This is the team we've got and we have to make sure we make the most of it," he said.
"There's still a fair core that have played a bit of rugby. It's going to be up to us to make sure that the expectation of what we have to do is kept up there and there's no excuses."
Meanwhile McCaw had mixed feelings about sitting out the Super 14 final at the weekend, when the Bulls beat the Stormers 25-17 in Soweto to grab their third title in four years.
On the one hand, it gave him an extra week to freshen up, especially after the two trips the Crusaders had to make to South Africa in quick succession.
On the other hand, he would have escaped the bad weather in Christchurch the past week if the Crusaders had been able to get past the Bulls in their semfinal.
"It's a silver lining to have a week to refresh a bit, but I wouldn't have minded to have been over there, to be honest."
Coach Graham Henry said choosing the present squad had involved one of the longest and toughest selection processes during his term.
The reason was that player availability changed week by week during the Super 14.
"That made it a bit more difficult," he said.
"But anything that is difficult is more demanding, more challenging and brings out the best in people."