All Blacks fired up for their northern tour
Here's one school of thought: The disappointing draw against the Wallabies in Brisbane has taken the edge off the All Blacks' end-of-season tour.
And here's Kieran Read's take on that: Don't you believe it.
The All Blacks captain-in-waiting yesterday spoke to the media before flying out of Auckland for the four-test tour that will open against Scotland in the early hours of next Monday, November 12 (NZ time).
And the classy No 8 made it more than clear this was a group whose motivation levels were sky-high.
Sure, the chance at the perfect year and the world record winning streak went out the window on that steamy night in Brisbane when a strangely flat New Zealand side was held to an 18-18 stalemate.
But there are still some numbers in play. Matching the feat of John Hart's 1997 All Blacks and going the calendar year unbeaten is on, as is continuing a test winning streak on November tours that extends back to 2002.
Plus New Zealand has never lost to Scotland and Italy, and last went down to Wales in 1953.
Read offered an insight into the psyche of the All Blacks when he admitted: "This group and every group I've been a part of doesn't want to be that [first] team that loses, so we'll work really hard [to avoid] that."
Not that records and streaks and such statistical delights are primary motivators for any All Black.
"We just want to be winning, and that's motivation enough for us to do what we need to do each week," said Read yesterday ahead of their one and only training hitout on a sunny Auckland day.
"Our preparation is pretty key to putting in a performance each Saturday, and hopefully we can go up there and show those people in the north how we play the game of rugby. We want to play a really nice style."
Read confirmed the Brisbane performance was still being spoken about by senior members of the squad.
"There are a few guys today pretty disappointed still from that performance. It's just a little bit of extra motivation. We want to play our game and really play some positive footy and hopefully we can showcase that up there."
The new laws should help these All Black ambitions. The five-second ruck rule must increase the tempo of the game and it's hard to see how any one of Scotland, Italy and England could be remotely comfortable with that.
Wales might fancy their chances of living with the New Zealand pace, but history suggests they can't sustain it.
Coach Steve Hansen has pledged that his entire squad of 32 (including debutants Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Dane Coles) will see action over the first two tests, before he settles into the top lineup for the run home in Wales and England.
Read, tipped to get a crack at the captaincy he will inherit during Richie McCaw's sabbatical next year, admits he wants to play every test, but can understand the benefits of widening the net for the opening fortnight.
"When I first started it was all about trying to get on the field," he said.
"You need the opportunities, and there's only one way to find out if you're capable of playing at this level.
"Most guys can step out there and do the job. Personally you want to be on the field, but whatever Shag (Hansen) and the selectors want we'll go with it."
This tour also gives the All Blacks another chance to unleash that complete performance that's eluded them all year, and it could only be beneficial for the game if it occurred in Cardiff or London.
"We want to be playing at a really high level," added Read.
"There are opportunities for us to do that and we'll work hard at it. It's about making sure you're motivated and prepare as well as you can, because it's not just going to happen."
It doesn't sound like motivation will be a problem for this group.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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