Friday, August 06, 2010

All Blacks could make Tri Nations irrelevant

The All Blacks will render the rest of this year's Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup rugby tests superfluous if they maintain their sizzling start to 2010 in Christchurch tomorrow night.

Playing their last test of the year on home soil, captain Richie McCaw's men will lock up two pieces of major silverware at the halfway point of both series if they can maintain their winning run against the Wallabies here tomorrow night.

Sanzar officials will quietly cheer on Australia but the visitors have the weight of eight successive All Blacks setbacks to overcome, along with the knowledge they have never won a night test in New Zealand.

Their young side must also extinguish the memory of last week's 49-28 loss in Melbourne and somehow find a way to infect and frustrate an All Blacks side who have appeared untouchable through six wins to kick-start the year.

"They're going to be desperate, it's going to be a tough test match, no doubt about that," captain McCaw said today.
"So it's what we bring to the party. We want to put in a big performance here before we get on the road again and that's a big motivating factor.
"They're going to fly into it, they always do, and we have to match that."

McCaw will lead a team boasting 717 combined test caps, three short of the world record set by Ireland in 2007.
In contrast, Australian coach Robbie Deans continues to invest in youth, naming raw brothers Anthony and Saia Faingaa in a team already shorn of experience by injury.

Deans has been the big story this week, returning to a city and ground where he won a fifth Super rugby title with the Crusaders before crossing the Tasman midway through 2008.
His week in Christchurch has mirrored the seven days former Waikato player and coach Warren Gatland spent in Hamilton as Wales coach in June, with both conducting training sessions at their old schools.

The straight-talking Gatland is a different character to the complex Deans but in a rare unguarded moment, the 50-year-old former Canterbury fullback left no doubt what he felt about the Melbourne performance.

"Clearly if we are that inaccurate again, the experience will be similar because you just can't give the All Blacks that amount of possession and you also deny yourself the ability to build pressure," he said, before outlining the solution.
"Attention to detail mostly. Keep going, keep working and tending to the pieces of detail that need to be addressed."

The All Blacks believe they have room to improve, hoping to at least match their best performance this year, the Tri-Nations opening defeat of South Africa in Auckland a month ago.
First five-eighth Daniel Carter said his teammates were motivated to lift their standards from a sloppy second half in Melbourne.

"The thing that gets me is that at the end of the match we came in and realised there are quite a few areas that we can improve," he told NZPA.
"(Coach) Graham Henry's made a few comments that we're running at 75 percent. That's probably fair comment.
"Guys were stoked to win and it was a fantastic scoreline but it just seemed that we dropped off in the second half and it felt like we could have won by more."

It seems unlikely the All Blacks can maintain their 42-point, five-try average this year in tonight's test, with the weather forecast to be cold and wet.

However, the conditions may work against Australia, whose players historically struggle in wintry New Zealand conditions at both test and Super rugby level.

The most recent example was the in-form Waratahs' meek surrender against the Highlanders in freezing Invercargill, seeing them blow a crucial Super 14 fixture this year.

All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said poor weather would help his side work on their multi-dimensional attitude towards choice of playing style.

"It looks like we're running everything but we've also got a powerful set of forwards who are setting a huge platform for us and if it's raining and snowing, that's what you need. We've also got pretty good kickers."

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