New Zealand v Tonga, Rugby World Cup, September 9
McCaw ready to create history
ESPNscrum Staff
September 8, 2011
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw watches on while the World Cup squad is being unveiled, Hilton Hotel, Brisbane, Australia, August 23, 2011
McCaw will hope to put the All Blacks previous two matches behind him © Getty Images

Richie McCaw is ready to lead the All Blacks in their World Cup opener with Tonga on Friday fully aware of the weight of expectation on his side's shoulders.

McCaw's men kick off the seventh Rugby World Cup as red-hot favourites to lift a trophy they last won in 1987. Tonga are first on the agenda in Auckland, where New Zealand hold an imperious Test record. It is also the venue for their probable Pool A decider against France on September 24.

Assessing the World Cup challenge, skipper McCaw said: "It is a stage where everyone is at their peak, and you have got to be if you want success. That is what motivates me - to test yourself in the toughest environment. And, when you do that and succeed, that is when you can be satisfied.

"A World Cup is the biggest stage, and you want to prove yourself."

New Zealand arrive at the World Cup following successive Tri Nations defeats against South Africa and Australia, but McCaw added: "History has shown that what has happened previously - good or bad - means nothing come kick-off."

Although Tonga are rank outsiders to threaten New Zealand tomorrow, an All Blacks team containing the likes of McCaw, Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams and exciting new full-back Israel Dagg know there is a job to be done.

"There is no complacency in this group," said All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith. "We are very aware of what they (Tonga) pose. They have got some of the biggest runners in world rugby.

"You don't want a soft pool, and we haven't got one. I think they will test us physically and they will test us with their athleticism. They are all good rugby players."

Worcester hooker Aleki Lutui, the most experienced player in Tonga's squad after making his Test debut 12 years ago, is ready to meet the All Blacks' challenge head-on before an anticipated 60,000 Eden Park crowd. "We are going to front them up because in most games we are going to be relying on our forwards. That's a big part of our game," he said. "Our strength is our forwards. It's a big role for us, and physicality is going to be right up there."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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