James Mortimer - (7/09/2010)
Any talk of the final Investec Tri Nations match and third Bledisloe Cup fixture of being a dead rubber is being put aside by both camps, despite the All Blacks coming into Sydney with both trophies locked away in the cabinet.
The visitors are looking at continuing what has been an impressive year of development, with all within the camp – led by coach Graham Henry and captain Richie McCaw – wanting to keep pressure on themselves and maintain what have been very high standards in 2010.
Lock Tom Donnelly, who has risen to become a first choice lock in the last 12 months, summed up the thoughts of the camp when saying that the All Blacks felt they had much more to offer.
"There's probably a bit of internal pressure," Donnelly said to stuff.co.nz"We just want to see how good this team is. In games that don't really mean much good teams still perform. We've just put it on ourselves to finish on a high note and keep that mental edge over Australia."
The All Blacks have been in Sydney since Sunday, and had their first training run yesterday at Leichardt Oval.
There was evidence based on the majority of team formations that Aaron Cruden will earn his first test start, while other players including Israel Dagg and Victor Vito could earn call ups to the starting XV.
However it appeared that front line combinations, namely the Crusaders back row tandem of McCaw and Kieran Read, and the Hurricanes midfield of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, would remain intact.
The team naming has been delayed though, with the side to be announced on Thursday.
But while it has been in many respects mission accomplished for the test season so far, there are two major records that could be achieved this weekend.
The first is an unprecedented tenth victory on the trot against the Wallabies, setting a new streak that many thought would never be broken after the All Blacks set a nine match consecutive run that took 11 years (from 1936 to 1947) to compile.
But there is also focus on the All Blacks winning streak, with Henry and the team keen to keep building to what could be a new world record.
Rene Ranger, who could be called onto the bench this week, said that the camp had spoken about the need to finish the tournament on a high.
"The attitude is still good," said Ranger to stuff.co.nz"We're out there to win, to put the foot down, even though the cups are in the cabinet. "Ted (Graham Henry) was going on about 14-0 and we've got to make it 15-0. The boys' mindset is pretty clear – we've got to win this game, we don't want to finish the Tri-Nations with the Aussies winning."