By DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Richie McCaw senses an increased urgency from some of the older All Blacks as they look to push their cause amidst a new wave of talent flooding into the New Zealand squad.
Injuries and form have meant plenty of fresh faces have played Ireland and Wales over the opening tests against Ireland and Wales - and they have emerged with plenty of credit.
Now some of the older hands are back for the second test against Wales in Hamilton on Saturday night - props Tony Woodcock and Neemia Tialata start, blindside flanker Jerome Kaino gets another go after just 30 minutes against Ireland, lock Tom Donnelly is underway at last, as is fullback Mils Muliaina while Richard Kahui starts at centre after a good burst off the bench last week.
McCaw believes the attitude of Woodcock probably sums up the feelings of some of the other "senior" members of the squad.
After watching the impressive Franks brothers start the opening two tests, Woodcock was like a man possessed when he got on Carisbrook in the second half last Saturday night. It's continued a trend from training where the loosehead has been ripping into things.
"He is hungry and keen," McCaw said of Woodcock.
"The first week he missed out on playing and by the look of him he was frustrated by his Super 14 season.
"But he has looked excited. He took his opportunity to play well when he came on.
"It's great for the group to see a guy who has been around as long as he has and he has still got that spark. He's certainly ready for a run around."
McCaw is putting pressure on the older hands to progress the promising start made by the All Blacks.
"There is a lot of experience coming back in. Things have gone OK in the last couple of weeks. Perhaps we haven't had the 80-minute performances but things have sort of ticked along all right.
"So for these guys who haven't played the first couple of weeks, we don't want to go backwards at all. I guess there is a bit of edge there that we want to improve. But they have played a lot of rugby and hopefully they will slot in."
McCaw said there was some real competition brewing for places. That will be heightened against Wales with the Tri-Nations squad due to be named on Sunday.
The selectors will take genuine delight with the way young players like Israel Dagg, Victor Vito, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Benson Stanley and Aaron Cruden have slotted into the test environment.
"I think back to 2006 and we had good depth. We are starting to get back to that sort of situation where hopefully when you get injuries or someone else gets asked to play it should be seamless for someone else to fit in," McCaw said.
"There was a bit of talk before this squad got picked that we were lacking a bit of depth and I suppose there is the odd spot that is a bit like that. But we are comfortable that guys filling in this week will do well."