Mon, 30 Aug
The All Blacks are still not playing well enough to win the World Cup despite clinching the Tri-Nations with a match to spare and compiling a run of 14 consecutive victories, skipper Richie McCaw said on Monday.
New Zealand have played some scintillating rugby this season but that has only served to fuel accusations that they have again peaked too soon before the sport's showpiece event, which they host next year.
"We've got to be confident, people talk about peaking and all that sort of stuff but you only peak when you don't think you can get any better," the twice International Player of the Year told a teleconference.
"Sure we've been happy with what we've done this year but we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought we were playing good enough for 12 month's time.
"We've got to still look at ways of improving and I think there's still a lot of potential to do that."
The All Blacks play Australia in their final Tri-Nations test in Sydney on Sept. 11 before a fourth match this year against their cross-Tasman Sea rivals in Hong Kong on Oct. 30.
As holders and with two wins against Australia already under their belts, New Zealand are guaranteed to retain the Bledisloe Cup but McCaw does not think that will alter the team's approach to their second encounter with the Wallabies in Hong Kong.
"It's a test match against Australia, and the last thing you want to do is lose one," he added.
"I'd be really disappointed if that changed the intensity. When the guys pull on the black jerseys, they want to go out and play well. I don't think that will change at all."
The Hong Kong match comes before November tests against England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, five matches in five weeks that McCaw described as a "dress rehearsal" for the World Cup.
"I doubt 15 guys will play all five tests, it's about keeping the guys fresh and still putting the best team out on the field," he said.
"And that's what happens at a World Cup... you've got to make sure everybody has played enough rugby but still has plenty of gas in the tank. That's always a fine line to get right."
McCaw said he was excited about having a third chance to finally reclaim the trophy that New Zealand, despite being perennial favourites, have won just once in 1987.
"I'd love to win it but I don't get hung up to the point that it ruins my life," said the openside flanker.
"As you get closer you put more and more energy into it (but) I also want to enjoy the rugby now."