England v New Zealand
All Blacks different beast in this year's lead up
November 16, 2013
The All Blacks were dominated both mentally and physically in last year's loss, but are a different beast this year in the lead up to the match © PA Photos
The All Blacks are a different beast mentally and physically to the side who self-destructed against England at Twickenham last year says captain Richie McCaw. McCaw says his team's preparation for Saturday's Test is in a different league to last December, when the world champions were played off the park by the hosts.
It is the only loss in their last 33 Tests and a reflection on their poor build-up, which went some way to explaining their meltdown in the second half, the veteran flanker says.
"The guys are pretty excited and on edge this week. Last year, at the end of the year, it was a little bit flat and we didn't adapt well. Our game's moved on from that and the boys are excited about how we're playing and it's just a completely different feel."
Since that defeat, the All Blacks have swept to 12 wins from 12, with last weekend's 26-19 defeat of France in Paris their most taxing Test. McCaw hopes the vast experience in an All Blacks starting line-up boasting 842 combined caps can be influential.
Also, winning a similarly hyped Test against the Springboks last month - just their fourth victory in 12 visits to Ellis Park - is cause for confidence.
"The guys who have been around a while understand what it takes to perform and that's what we're after," McCaw said. "The big thing is that you don't try to play the game before tomorrow."
Last week against France McCaw played his 85th Test as captain, moving past Irish great Brian O'Driscoll in setting a world record for the most caps as a skipper. This week it is first five-eighth Dan Carter's turn to reach a milestone but McCaw says winning the Test for his long-serving comrade is one of several motivations on offer. They can't afford to be distracted by any of them, he says.
"You can use history as a bit of extra motivation and I'd be disappointed if that loss last year didn't hurt for everyone," McCaw said. "The measure of how good you are is how you bounce back and turn things around."
As well as raising his century, another world record looms for Carter, who has kicked 254 Test penalties. If he lands two, he will move past former England playmaker Jonny Wilkinson and become the owner of the most points (currently 1435), conversions (255) and penalties in Test rugby.