Rotation helps ABs stay focussed on perfection
Fresh as a daisy, skipper Richie McCaw says he's ready to finish this potentially historic All Blacks tour on the note that it warrants in Dublin tomorrow.
McCaw, speaking to the media at the Aviva Stadium Captain's Run, said there were no comparisons with the way the team literally collapsed short of the finish line last year at Twickenham, and this year's group that heads into the final test with a decided spring in its step.
"We've had a pretty good week's preparation and the guys are pretty excited about getting out there tomorrow," said McCaw. "It's quite a good job it's at two in the afternoon because the boys are keen to get out on the track.
"It's hard to even compare with last year. By the end of the week last year we were struggling a bit physically and mentally, whereas this year the excitement levels are there. There's no talk of wanting to get on the plane. They're keen to do the job."
Steve Hansen's strategic rotation has helped, with seven changes all told from the England test, just two of them forced by injury.
"That helps," admitted McCaw. "Those guys are pretty eager to get out there. We're pretty lucky with the crew we've got - not a lot changes with some of these guys that come in. They want to get out and play well. Just talking for myself, I want to have a good one to finish off."
McCaw shrugged off the headline-grabbing comments from Irish prop Cian Healy that he "hated" the haka and wondered why the All Blacks were allowed to perform it before a test.
"I guess everyone's got a different opinion on that," said the 123-test veteran who's pretty much heard it all before. "The reality is it's something with a bit of tradition that we do, and some people enjoy it, and some don't. Each to their own.
"You don't tend to get too carried away with that sort of stuff. I'm sure they'll be getting excited about turning things around from last week and having a good performance. All we're expecting is them to come out with that sort of energy and fire."
There was some good news today with the little tweak to his knee suffered by in-form wing Julian Savea at Friday's training session settling back down pretty quickly.
"He trained today and I think he's pretty good," said McCaw.
The skipper said the backdrop of the chance to clinch rugby's first perfect test season in the professional era would be mentioned, but would not be a driving force.
"You talk about it in the context of it's a by-product of getting the job done on Sunday and getting the week right. There's a lot of talk about the end of the season and all those things that come with it but we just had to go about our business. I think we've done that as well as we could have."
McCaw said it was a bit strange to be feeling so fresh at this end of the season after his truncated rugby year, but it reinforced his decision to take his extended break.
"It feels like I'm just getting started to be fair. It's a bit of a weird one at this time of the year for me. I'm just stoked to get a few games in a row.
"No doubt it's been a positive, to get to the end of this tour and feel like you're only just getting going. I would have liked a few extra games but that's just the way it is."
The All Blacks will complete a perfect 14-0 season if they clinch a 22nd consecutive victory over a team they've never lost to in a 108-year history of tests between the two countries.