All Blacks look to strike pre-Cup blow on Sat against England

Richie McCaw may have felt a twinge of nostalgia in London this week.

Pilgrimages to Twickenham have been a feature of the All Blacks captain’s calendar since he first appeared there in 2006.

Now, as his test career slowly winds down he may reflect more carefully on past – and future – battles in the great stadium.

While determined to ensure tomorrow morning’s test against England isn’t his last outing at “HQ”, McCaw should be the first to accept that there are no guarantees the All Blacks will return next year.

For a man who turns 35 on New Year’s Eve, and is cagey about whether he keep playing beyond 2015, there is the unpalatable – but possible – scenario to consider of whether this will be his last appearance there.

To earn a return ticket to Twickenham next year the All Blacks must qualify for the World Cup semifinals, and they will forever be mindful of the way they were bowled out of the quarterfinals by France in 2007.

England, a team that keeps chanting the mantra that they want Twickenham to be their fortress, are promising the New Zealanders a rough ride.

In return the uber-competitive McCaw and his men will be promising physical armageddon.

McCaw also knows that there is a chance to score valuable psychological points ahead of the World Cup, with both sides on a potential collision course to meet in the final.

“If you sit here and say it doesn’t have some sort of importance to next year, you would be kidding yourself,” McCaw acknowledged.

“But, jeez, a week is a long time – let alone 10 months – in rugby and we have got quite a few games and there is a Six Nations to go.

“It would be nice to go away and have a break, knowing we have done the job this week and the following two weeks.”

England’s selection options were diminished by injuries, especially to their pack, but McCaw argued the All Blacks were expected to roll the Wallabies, who were in turmoil after the Kurtley Beale-Ewen McKenzie saga, in Brisbane last month and only escaped with a win in the final seconds.

How much notice has he taken of the depleted English roster? “Zero.”

A second-string All Blacks side may have rolled the United States in Chicago but were fortunate not to enter that fixture on the back of a 0-2 record.

They were only a missed conversion by Colin Slade away from consecutive losses in Johannesburg and Sydney, and McCaw knows the poor execution at the start of those fixtures hurt them.

“The big thing is there are no major problems that I see.

“Getting the start right is the key, especially in South Africa where we let them into the game which perhaps caused us to make mistakes.

“Which you get against good teams if you allow them to do that.”

While England don’t possess a fetcher like Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper, they will attempt to bludgeon the All Blacks in post-tackle situations by filling the space over the ball.

“I should imagine we will have no trouble turning up with the right attitude,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

“So now we just have to deal with the momentum swings in the game and control it, really.”

The impact of Julian Savea – and potentially Sonny Bill Williams – and how Hansen injects the substitutes in the second half could prove the difference. As will a dominant pack.

“If we control the rugby ball, the intensity and the speed of the game we will be hard to beat,” Hansen added.

– Stuff

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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