All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has spoken of the team’s 39-12 triumph in Marseille as the genesis of what has been a remarkable season so far.
That win over a French team that would later go onto win the Six Nations Grand Slam was the turn around for an All Blacks team humbled by the Springboks in 2009 en route to conceding the Investec Tri Nations title.
This year has seen a series of achievements recorded by the side.
Both the Steinlager Series (test against Ireland, two versus Wales) and the Tri Nations have been won.
The latter was completed with a clean sweep, the first time achieved since 2003 and the first whitewash since the tournament was expanded to six tests.
The Bledisloe Cup was retained, with only a loss in Hong Kong blemishing a 3-1 record. Before this the All Blacks had set a new record in trans-Tasman streaks, winning ten straight against the closest rivals.
Captain Richie McCaw has now led the All Blacks more than any other player in history, has won more tests that any other, and now alongside Mils Muliaina is the most capped New Zealand test player of all time.Dan Carter has is the All Blacks highest test points scorer, became Investec Super rugby record point’s scorer, and will pass Jonny Wilkinson as the world record holder for most points scored by any test player in history.
A win over Wales would give the All Blacks their fourth Grand Slam, equaling the Springboks and completing their fourth such sweep since 1978.In the same way that the 27 point win over France gave them priceless impetus coming into this season, McCaw has asked for the same to occur when they face Wales at Millennium Stadium.
2011 will be an important year in the All Blacks proud history.New Zealand will attempt to win their second World Cup in the seventh tournament held since winning the inaugural championship 23 years ago.McCaw wants a statement made in Cardiff the same way it was in Marseille.
"It made the start of this year a hell of a lot easier knowing you'd put that performance together,” he said.“That's what I'm pretty keen to make sure we try to do that this week."
The focus need to be held coming into the 14th test of a long campaign. But careful management of the players had ensured that players were still fresh physically, but the mind could wander after ten months of immersion within a rugby environment.
"It's the mind that loses a bit of zip," he said."That's what you've got to keep working on because the body will do what the mind tells it. If you ask the guys, they're not feeling too bad at the end of a 10-month season."
McCaw felt that the year could be finished with the achievement of a Home Nations sweep, something only achieved eight times in history.
"Winning a Grand Slam is not an easy thing to do, but we've given ourselves a chance and it will be a nice thing to look back on in December knowing you've done the job," McCaw said."It would be really disappointing not to do the job this week."