All Blacks targeting rare unbeaten season

LIAM NAPIER IN EDINBURGH
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Richie McCaw
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NO LET UP: Richie McCaw is as focussed as ever ahead of All Blacks end-of-year tour opener against Scotland.

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One year after clinching the historic World Cup triumph, the All Blacks' goal of reasserting their global dominance remains tangible.

Sure, the prospect of securing the world record number of wins was ruined with a draw against the injury-ravaged Wallabies. No-one is more gutted about that abomination than those in All Blacks' inner sanctum.

But one carrot is still within reach.

Achieving the first undefeated season in 15 years would be a notable milestone.

It would fufil the messages of senior players and management, who have constantly reinforced the need to remind the chasing pack what they are up against this year.

You don't see any other nation with that record in sight. The All Blacks' quest continues in the Scottish capital on Monday.

"For us it's key that we get the performance right and if we do that we'll continue the unbeaten sequence," All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu said of the long-term motivator for their European tour.

"If we prepare well, we should be able to put that win together."

Since trouncing Tonga in the first match of rugby's showpiece last year, the All Blacks have gone 17 matches unbeaten. That's quite remarkable and should not be scoffed at, given the dreaded Webb Ellis Cup hangover.

Steve Hansen's men could end this season two short of their World Cup-winning predecessors from 1987-90, who boasted a 23-game unblemished run.

"We talked about that record. The boys are motivated for that," blindside flanker Liam Messam said. "It doesn't matter who we play, we need to prepare well to perform.

"In Brisbane we had a disappointing performance as a pack, and as a team. We had a real honest and open review this morning. We took some really great lessons from that. If we can put those out there we'll be better for it."

The most telling sentiments came from Richie McCaw.

The All Blacks captain rarely looks beyond the next challenge.

His admission that keeping a clean sheet on the four-match tour to become just the second team in the professional era - after John Hart's men in 1997 - to go undefeated in a season would be a special feat was revealing.

It gave a true insight into the All Blacks' mentality.

"If we look back on that in December, you'd be pretty happy, but you can't get ahead of yourself. We've got four tests in a row. There's a challenge in that you don't do often.

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"Everyone is going to be required to do their bit and if we all get on the plane having performed in four tests and have four wins, that would be very satisfying, but there is a fair bit of work to go into do that.

"If we get that right, there's no reason we can't sit back in December and be really happy."

There is a response brewing to rectify the draw in Brisbane, one that would set the tone for the rest of the tour and firm desires to emulate Hart's side. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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