Thursday Jun 24, 2010
Balancing the rival elements of experience and excitement has been a hefty task for the All Blacks as they approach their return test against Wales.
Captain Richie McCaw revealed it had been necessary to keep a check on some of the senior players as they eyed their return to international rugby, while the rest needed to lift their bite for Saturday's test in Hamilton.
His side could not afford to start as slowly as they had last weekend at Carisbrook, where they lacked an edge to much of their play in the opening spell.
"It is hard because we had to make sure we were not ready to play on Tuesday. There is always a knack to make sure that by Saturday, your attitude is dead right," he said.
Senior men like Mils Muliaina, Tony Woodcock and Neemia Tialata will start their first test this season after battling injury, loss of form and other contenders.
The four changes to the All Black pack have added 106 extra caps of experience while the three backline alterations have meant little difference with their collective caps five fewer than the departing Joe Rokocoko, Conrad Smith and Israel Dagg.
"The excitement of the guys coming in hopefully will help [a stronger start] and then the rest of us, who have played the first couple of tests, we have to make sure we are ready to go, too," said McCaw.
Training this week in Hamilton has been an unusual mix of harness and free rein, control and encouragement .
"We need to build more pressure than we did last week, early. We were trying things and made simple mistakes. I don't know if we just thought it would flow on from the week before," said McCaw.
"Sometimes after a big win, you think it will just happen again rather than doing the hard yards.
"So we have talked about not taking time to build because the Welsh will be pretty fired up this week and climbing into everything so we have got to make sure we match that."
McCaw had few answers about why Wales were unable to keep up their intensity after 50 minutes or incapable of staying in the test. They had pressured the All Blacks who had not reacted especially well.
Wales would be disappointed they were unable to get any significant reward for the heat they applied early at Carisbrook, while the All Blacks had noted the lessons. "It just goes to show that if you get things wrong or start not to do the little jobs, the things everyone doesn't see, that things start to change pretty quickly."
Sonny Bill Williams has agreed to play for Canterbury in this season's ITM Cup then the Crusaders in next year's Super 15, according to reports out of Australia.
By Wynne Gray