McCaw: It's about polishing what we've learnt
Richie McCaw looked pretty calm as he trotted over to speak to the media at the end of today's captain's run at Forsyth Barr Stadium. But beneath the cool exterior lurked a pretty fired up All Blacks skipper.
The 125-test veteran made that clear as he spoke to a gaggle of reporters, saying he was expecting England to provide an even tougher challenge than they did in Auckland last week, and by extension that meant his All Blacks had to complete one of the more dramatic transformations of his long career.
Though the All Blacks won the series opener 20-15, to a man they've decried their own performance which was full of basic errors, poor option-taking and lack of execution. McCaw continued that theme today, making it clear his men were driven to lift their intensity and standards significantly.
Given that England have brought in five fresh starters this week - from their second squad of 16 who were not available for Eden Park - and significantly tooled up their bench, McCaw indicated it was shape up or ship out time for his side.
"You've got to expect that don't you," he said of the prospect of England lifting even further. "They've got a few guys back and they'll be better for having had a run together, just like we will be. It's going to make for a pretty big battle I'd suggest."
The All Blacks are clearly being challenged by this England outfit of Stuart Lancaster's, if you factor in 2012's defeat at Twickenham and last November's match-up that was in the balance until the last 10 minutes.
"We realised this series was going to be a hell of a tough coming off the games we've had the last couple of years. It's exactly what we expected but we didn't help ourselves last week. We know what England are going to bring so we need to be better, because they're going to be better no doubt about that."
The great No 7 indicated that the All Blacks were a lot further down the track than they'd been last week, but conceded it still needed to be transferred at game time.
"There's been a definite step up - everyone from management to the players realise if we get the inaccuracies we had last week and perhaps the energy we had in the first half, we're going to come second. That's not the standard you expect and because of that everyone has gone up a bit.
"The intent has been there this week, but we've got to make sure that transfers to performance. You never know till you get out on the track but certainly the way the guys have gone about their work has been a noticeable step up."
McCaw wasn't exempting himself, either, from the need to lift performance levels. "I'm exactly the same as the rest of the guys - you've got to go up a level in everything you do."
The skipper also shrugged off the so-called "go-slow" tactics being employed by the tourists.
"You know you've got a dry ball here, and hopefully you play at the tempo you want which means being able to use the ball. But we've got to create opportunities to do that. Last week when you have opportunities and spill then, like we did it, it doesn't matter how fast you're trying to play there are going to be stoppages."
McCaw also paid tribute to the seamless reintroduction of loose forward Jerome Kaino who will earn his 50th test cap tomorrow night.
"I've been hugely impressed. I've got to say a few of us were disappointed that he left after 2011. But he's been true to his word, and has come back with the hunger and want to be out there. His performances in the early part of this year and some things he did last week showed why he's the man he is."
McCaw felt a pretty staunch Monday meeting had set the tone for the week. Now it just remains for the All Blacks to back up the words with their actions.
"A week together means we don't have to worry about learning as much stuff. It's about polishing it, and because of that we've been able to add a bit of intensity."
If last week is any indication, it will be needed.