TOBY ROBSON 22/07/2011 - The Dominion Post
Richie McCaw doesn't plan to let any annoying white mammals bumble through the All Blacks dressing room as their World Cup season kicks off against Fiji at Carisbrook tonight.
Plenty of water will pass under the bridge before the All Blacks play Tonga in the tournament opener, but McCaw is well aware time is now of the essence.
There are five tests before World Cup kick-off, 400 minutes to ensure the All Blacks' carefully constructed blueprint is not still at the proofers.
And though Fiji will provide only a starting point, it will get the ball rolling in the quest for that crucial element in sport – momentum.
"We don't want to leave it [the World Cup] as a big white elephant in the room," McCaw said in Dunedin yesterday after the first captain's run of the test season.
"It's something to get excited about but we have to do it right here and now."
For some All Blacks, Fiji will represent a chance to solidify their selection, but collectively it is a chance to start building confidence in game plans, combinations and theories.
"We don't want to be sitting here on Monday being frustrated because things we did this week weren't right [and] we didn't turn up and do all those little jobs right," McCaw said. "That's the key. If we get stuck in then next week we can tweak what we don't get right tomorrow.
"That's the result I'm after, that we get stuck in, combine as a team, and things we worked on this week we do right."
Not everything will work. The scoreline will be largely irrelevant. Even a loss during the Tri-Nations would not be a disaster.
But chances to test and discard plans, tactics and combinations are running out. Every moment counts now, including the 80 minutes against Fiji.
There's a spring in the All Blacks' collective step this week, and it's not just the fancy red and gold training tops or the start of the test year.
The World Cup is roaring toward these players and they are determined to embrace it.
The memories of the 2007 quarterfinal nightmare will linger with the public, but it, like the trials of the Super Rugby season, cannot be allowed to creep into the psyche.
A chunk of players are missing, Brad Thorn, Kieran Read, Keven Mealamu and Sonny Bill Williams among those to take a much-needed breather. But the All Blacks' World Cup tilt has reached the start line. The performance against Fiji will set the tone for much that follows.
"You can see all these guys have had different experiences during the Super Rugby campaign, some good, some not so good," McCaw said.
"This team has come together pretty well this week and we have to make sure we use that excitement to achieve what we want.
"It's an exciting year and you want to start off pretty well. It would be stupid to say that it [the World Cup] is not in the back of our minds.
"But this week is about getting together without thinking too much down the track – about getting everything sorted so we can play well and then go into the Tri-Nations.
"That's the focus. What we do now will hopefully set up what we do later in the year – it would be silly not to acknowledge that.
"We have to make sure we stay ahead. A lot of what was done last year will be good enough, but it's what you do to make things better, that's what we have to keep hunting for."
And so the chase for the Webb Ellis Cup begins.
All Blacks playing schedule:
Tonight: v Fiji, Carisbrook, Dunedin, 7.35pm
July 30: v South Africa, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 7.35pm
August 6: v Australia, Eden Park, Auckland, 7.35pm
August 21: v South Africa, Port Elizabeth, 3.05am
August 27: v Australia, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 10.05pm
==> The World Cup: September 9: v Tonga, Eden Park, Auckland, 8.30pm
September 16: v Japan, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, 8pm
September 24: v France, Eden Park, Auckland, 8.30pm
October 2: v Canada, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 3.30pm