All Blacks get wetter to get better for England
When the All Blacks bus bypassed Dunedin's state-of-the-art roofed stadium yesterday and carried on to the more salubrious outdoor setting next door at the University Oval, Liam Messam confessed a few bottom lips dropped.
It was cold and wet and rather exacting in Dunedin - conditions tailor-made for the stadium which takes the elements out of the footy equation.
Though they'll be playing the second test against England on Saturday in that perfect environment (a situation the world champs are quietly relishing), the All Blacks yesterday elected to have their first training hit-out au naturel. Just what the footy doctor ordered, admitted Messam with the benefit of hindsight.
"When we drove past the stadium in the bus we were like 'please turn right' but it carried on straight. There's nothing wrong with a bit of hard work in the cold and wet. The boys enjoyed it."
In fact, the 30-test 30-year-old loose forward felt it could have been just the tune-up the All Blacks required after a shoddy first-test effort in Auckland that he admitted left them all rather "disappointed".
"It's just about getting better at our skill sets. That let us down. We worked really hard at that and today probably helped with the conditions because you have to nail your skill sets in wet conditions like this. The boys were pretty switched on."
Messam hinted at some pretty steely resolve to prove Saturday's effort was the exception, not the rule for a team which has now won 15 tests on the trot.
"It was a tough and ugly win but it was a win. We know we can get better as a team. It was good to get a first run together for the year but we can't use that as an excuse. We've got to make sure we front on Saturday and give it a real crack."
The Chiefs co-captain also offered an interesting observation on an England squad under Stuart Lancaster that seems to be building an All Blacks-type depth to go with an All Blacks-type consistency of performance.
"It is pretty scary and it's something they've built on. They're probably one of the sides who have risen in the last 18 months in their footy. They're working on something special but, for us, we've just got to focus on this group and, hopefully, we can have a good run on a dry track on Saturday."
Messam admitted he'd been a little sore when he was woken at 6am on Sunday by his four-year-old son who didn't much care that dad had just gone head to head with a bruising English pack the night before.
"It was a tough battle. It always is in test footy but they're big physical men. It was good to have Jerome back in an All Blacks jumper and he was sensational - real physical. Richie was Richie and we've just got to make sure we keep developing as a trio."
That's the All Blacks' mantra this week. Indoors or out, it's all about getting better.