2 Oct 2015

'We need to take a step up'

11:35 am on 2 October 2015

The All Blacks are aiming to lay down a marker at the Rugby World Cup in their pool match against Georgia in Cardiff tomorrow morning.

All Blacks perform the haka before their Rugby World Cup game against Namibia.

All Blacks perform the haka before their Rugby World Cup game against Namibia. Photo: Getty Images

After mixed performances in their first two wins, the defending champions have been focused on going to the next level in their first-ever Test against the 15th-ranked Georgians.

There was a noticeable lift in intensity around the All Blacks camp this week, after their relaxed start to the tournament in London.

With a long week of preparation, the team increased physicality in training, with many players sporting fresh bumps and bruises from the intense sessions.

The first two All Blacks performances were marred by errors and a general lack of accuracy, which captain Richie McCaw said they could not afford in future games.

"We need to take a step up, and this is the time we need to do that, we've all had a run in the first two games, so there's no excuses for not being ready to go," he told reporters.

As well as helping the All Blacks players learn from their mistakes, the longer training week has given team management time to look around at what else is happening in the tournament.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said they had taken a look at some of their rivals to make sure they remained on track for the knockout stages.

"When you're in a unique situation like a tournament, you do spend a lot of time looking how the other teams are going, how the refs are going and the idiosyncrasies of the tournament," he said.

"So we're doing that and we've learned a bit."

However, the majority of the team's focus remains on this week's challenge against Georgia at Millenium Stadium.

Steve Hansen and Richie McCaw dicuss the finer points of rugby.

Steve Hansen and Richie McCaw dicuss the finer points of rugby. Photo: AFP

For the second straight week, the All Blacks are playing a team they have never met before.

Coach Steve Hansen said that had provided some challenges in the preparation.

"Georgia aren't a team we know a lot about, it's hard to get footage, but we've got enough of it," he said.

"We've seen enough of them in this tournament to know they're big, physical, strong men and they'll try and play a game where they can dominate our set piece and slow it down a bit.

"So we'll have to look to be on our mettle and do things right at set piece, and try and move them round a wee bit."

While Hansen is short on information, opposing coach Milton Haig is well aware of the way New Zealand play the game.

The New Zealander and former Counties-Manukau coach has been leading Georgia since 2011.

Haig said the match would be a special occasion for him personally, but there would be no confusion over who he was supporting.

"My loyalty and my responsibility is my team, but as a New Zealander, I'll be very proud to coach against New Zealand," Haig said.

"When the two national anthems are played, Georgia's my anthem. I'll recognise the New Zealand anthem but my responsibility lies with Georgia."

Haig has rested several top players for the match, choosing instead to focus on next week's game against Namibia, where a win would secure them automatic entry into the 2019 tournament.

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