8 Aug 2015

All Blacks must improve - McCaw

2:14 pm on 8 August 2015

The All Blacks captain Richie McCaw says his side has to improve if they are to beat Australia in Saturday's Rugby Championship decider in Sydney.

Richie McCaw.

Richie McCaw. Photo: Photosport

The world champions lacked trademark fluency in wins over Samoa, Argentina and South Africa, as coach Steve Hansen experimented with players and tinkered with combinations.

The tinkering continues in Sydney with the Hurricanes 24 year old winger, Nehe Milner-Skudder, making his debut on the right wing.

On the left wing, a reconditioned Julian Savea makes his first All Black start for the year.

Sonny Bill Williams runs at 2nd five eighth in place of the injured Ma'a Nonu while Ben Smith returns to fullback.

In the forwards, Dane Coles starts at hooker with the rookie Codie Taylor on the bench rather than the veteran Keven Mealamu.

The Crusaders prop Nepo Laulala is in line for his third cap this season from the bench while Sam Cane is also in the reserves after being rested from the All Blacks first three Tests of the season.

Nepo Laulala after the All Blacks' Rugby Championship victory over Argentina, 2015.

Nepo Laulala after the All Blacks' Rugby Championship victory over Argentina, 2015. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

McCaw, who will equal Irishman Brian O'Driscoll's record of 141 Test caps on Saturday at in Sydney, said there was an edgy mood around the squad as 41 players battled for 31 World Cup spots.

"Being able to win and still give the guys a crack and perhaps not have the fluency we'd like, hopefully we're getting a real positive out of it," McCaw said.

"But I think everyone has had a dig now and there's no real excuses for that any more.

"We need to put a good performance here tomorrow night because if we don't it will be a tough old night."

Like Hansen, Mccaw wasn't surprised Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was starting both of his openside flankers Michael Hooper and David Pocock.

"I suppose having both out on the field makes sense from their point of view with the way they are playing, so I kind of expected it...it doesn't really change a lot how we operate," McCaw said.

Renowned for his peerless play at the breakdown, McCaw emphasised it would need a collective effort to nullify the twin threat from Pocock and Hooper, who will play at number eight and openside flanker respectively.

Michael Hooper tackles Richie McCaw, 2014.

Michael Hooper tackles Richie McCaw, 2014. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"I don't think it's just me. I think you realise the breakdown is an area that's hotly contested, whether there's one or two (of them)," McCaw said.

"Everyone has an impact there these days, but those two are certainly pretty accurate at that."

The All Blacks may end up playing two openside flankers themselves if Cane is called off the bench to accompany McCaw on the field.

The captain has also noted Cheika's injection of physicality into the Wallabies play.

"Just looking at the first couple of game especially the South Africa game it was a pretty brutal Test match," McCaw said.

"It was pretty willing at the contact area and that's an area they have put a lot of effort into.

"They've been talking about bashing each other at training, which probably indicated that's what they are doing.

"But at the end of the day the same players have played other years, so it comes down to winning those physical battles."

He said the return of veteran backs Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell from overseas to the Wallaby ranks would bring a sense of calmness to their team.

"They are playing pretty good rugby to be back in the team and it looks like they are excited about getting a chance again, so they've probably added something," McCaw said."

Mitchell says the Wallabies' quest to break a 13-year Bledisloe Cup drought has not been discussed within the Wallaby camp.

Drew Mitchell celebrates a Bledisloe Cup try in 2010.

Drew Mitchell celebrates a Bledisloe Cup try in 2010. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"Obviously it's a record that we're not particularly proud of but I think for this group it's about forging something for ourselves," Mitchell said.

"In terms of motivation and coming up in team talks, it (drought) hasn't come up.

"It's something we've read about and seen on TV, but you wouldn't hear that coming from Cheik (coach Michael Cheika)."

The 64-Test veteran has one win from 13 Bledisloe Tests and Mitchell would love nothing more than to get his hands on the coveted trophy, something the Wallabies haven't done since 2002, three years before Mitchell played his first match against the All Blacks.

"The importance of it is not lost on us by any means, but in terms of a sole motivation for this game ... we just want to go out there and play our style of footy and see where it leads us."

The second Bledisloe Test is on Saturday week at Auckland's Eden Park.

New Zealand need only draw the two match series to retain the trophy.

Since winning it back after a five-year drought in 2003, New Zealand have held on to the trophy while establishing a dominance of test rugby that saw them recently celebrate a decade on top of the world rankings.

"I would love nothing better than to keep the Bledisloe in the cupboard, absolutely," McCaw said.

"But it's been like that every year. I still remember back to when we didn't have it and, put yourself in the Wallabies shoes, they will be desperate to get their hands on it.

"That's what makes a great occasion, is that it means so much for both teams.

"A few of us realise what it was like to not have it and the Wallabies are in that situation at the moment. But I never want to give it back. That's the motivator every time. Whenever you do hang up the boots if we still have it, I'll be pretty happy."

Richie McCaw and Kieran Read in the sheds after retaining the Bledisloe Cup

Richie McCaw and Kieran Read in the sheds after retaining the Bledisloe Cup Photo: PHOTOSPORT

McCaw, who made his Test debut in 2001, said he remembered every single one of his 14 defeats in the famous black shirt and matching O'Driscoll's record would only be a good memory if his performance was up to his own very high standards.

Incredibly, he has tasted defeat in just 10 per cent of the Tests he has played.

"They still grate absolutely," McCaw said.

"But sometimes your best learnings come from some of those matches."

His Test journey began against Ireland in Dublin in 2001 and he knocked on with his first touch.

"I probably wasn't even 100 kilos when I first started and you probably wouldn't get away with that these days," McCaw said.

McCaw is one of the few modern generation All Blacks to have played in an unsuccessful Bledisloe Cup campaign back in 2002, when Australia last held the coveted trophy after splitting two Tests.

"I still remember how much it meant to the guys to win it back when they didn't have it and put yourselves in the Wallabies shoes," McCaw said.

"They will be desperate to get their hands on it and this is what makes it such a great occasion is that it means so much to both teams.

"I never want to give it back, that's a motivator every time."

"I love nothing better than to keep the Bledisloe in the cupboard."

RICHIE MCCAW'S BLEDISLOE CUP RECORD

Played 32, won 26, lost 4 drawn 2.

HIS OVERALL TEST RECORD

Played 140, won 124 lost 14, drawn 2.

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