Richie McCaw has challenged his All Blacks to match the intensity they know is coming from the Wallabies tomorrow night.
Most of the noises coming out of the Australian camp this week in the capital have been quietly respectful, with new coach Ewen McKenzie even speaking about how much he admired the All Black psyche.
"The All Blacks have earned the right to be the most complacent team in world rugby but they're not -- they front up. There's enough pressure, enough of whatever it is that drives them to go out there and be switched on with that motivation. Other teams in the world have got to find the same space."
McKenzie was also happy to turn the blowtorch on his own team.
The coach has had his men watching looped videos of their shortcomings in last week's 47-29 defeat in Sydney and has spoken about the "anger" they should be feeling after such a disappointing display.
"We've got to be emotional about our performance," he said after naming an unchanged lineup, bar the injury-enforced addition of loose forward bruiser Scott Fardy. "I'm angry and I know the players will be in the same space. You've got to have that anger about your own performance."
McCaw was clearly listening, as he took time out during his captain's run to speak about the desperation they're anticipating from a Wallabies outfit playing for their Bledisloe lives. The Australians haven't won in New Zealand for 12 years now and are one defeat away from losing an 11th straight series against the All Blacks.
"I think teams that shut up and just get on with things are dangerous," he said of the lack of bluster out of the Australians this week. "When you look at the scoreline last week, there's no doubt they're proud men, and they'll come out and get stuck in.
"All we can control is how we turn up. If we can match that intensity, because I'm sure it will be up a notch from last week, then we'll get to play some rugby because if we don't do that we'll be on the back foot."
McCaw said there could be no doubting the messages coming from McKenzie.
"They'll hoe into things," said the All Blacks captain. "I know from experience when you play a team from one week to next there are numerous examples of a week's a long time and they can be a totally different team. We've got to make sure we match that because they'll come out with plenty of intent."
The All Blacks were also far from satisfied with their own efforts in Sydney, despite the flattering final numbers on the scoreboard.
"We were pretty honest about our performance last week. Yeah, the scoreboard looked OK but there were things we weren't happy with. We made sure we didn't just gloss over them," he said.
"When you lose you're a wee bit more critical of yourself, but our performance wasn't perfect either. Sometimes you don't even need to look at it, you know deep down whether you've got it right."
The skipper, who will play a record 31st test against the Wallabies tomorrow night, described his return to the international arena last week as "OK". He conceded it took him a little while to find his rhythm and pledged to raise his own levels as he works back to form after six-month sabbatical.
"Overall I was happy enough but I do realise it was by no means perfect. That's why you keep doing the work at training to improve each week."
McCaw also spoke candidly about the responsibilities of new No 10, and Crusaders teammate, Tom Taylor on debut.
"We've tried to make it as easy as possible for him and hopefully he's found it pretty easy to come up to speed with things. But he's in the No 10 slot, and he's got to control things.
"I know from my experience with the Crusaders he's got the ability to do that and we've just got to help him without trying do his job for him because he's good enough to do that."
The man who will play his 118th test - fifth equal on the all-time list - also sent a clear message about the need for both sides to make the necessary adjustments to the new scrum regulations.
"The reality is there is no point moaning at the refs. They've been told [the feed has] got to be dead straight and we've got to make sure we comply with that. For both teams it was our first hitout at the new way of doing it and hopefully we'll be better for it and understand the things we've got to get right to play off it."
McCaw also made it clear the Bledisloe still meant "a lot" despite the one-sided nature of the rivalry of late. "It's never easy," he said. "If you let your guard down for one second it will be swinging round straight away. It's one of the big test matches you want to get right and play well in I just want to make sure we keep our hands on it for as long as possible."
Kickoff tomorrow night is 7.35pm. The All Blacks last lost to the Wallabies in Wellington back in 2000 when John Eales kicked the winning penalty with time up. The Australians' last victory on Kiwi soil was in 2001 in Dunedin.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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