All Blacks out to make history
Captain Richie McCaw has said there will be an extra edge surrounding their final Test of the year against Ireland as the All Blacks look to make history.
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has said there will be an extra edge surrounding their final Test of the year against Ireland as the All Blacks look to make history.
They will attempt to become the first major international side of rugby's professional era to win all their matches in a calendar year, although the 32-year-old flank knows that the thought of winning 14 Tests out of 14 cannot override their performance on the pitch.
No international team in the professional era has enjoyed a perfect calendar year, with the All Blacks side led by Wayne Shelford - that won all seven of their Tests in 1989 - the last major nation to achieve the feat when rugby was still an amateur sport.
However, New Zealand themselves came close to perfection again when they won 11 games and drew one under John Hart in 1997.
"We have got to be careful as everyone knows what is at stake," said McCaw, who was speaking in Dublin after handing back the World Cup trophy he captained the All Blacks to win in New Zealand in 2011.
"There is extra excitement and edge to the match because of that but we know we have to play well as it is a Test match.
"These are games you have to perform in and you have to get it right," he added as he prepares to win his 124th cap in Sunday's game.
McCaw, who said the team had enough strength in depth to cope with the absence of injured first-choice flyhalf Dan Carter, believes Ireland's history dictated that they would not be lambs to the slaughter on Sunday despite their humbling 32-15 loss to Australia at the weekend.
"Look a team can change things round from a defeat like Saturday's," said McCaw, who claims to have a special feeling for Lansdowne Road having made his Test debut there in 2001.
"You can get a huge swing in performance in a week. We saw that from them in reverse last year. They could have won the first Test in New Zealand in Christchurch, but we edged it 22-19, and then the next weekend in Hamilton we won 60-0.
"If the Irish team turn up and play then we have a real battle on our hands."
McCaw, who unlike several of his former teammates never thought of going abroad to play in Europe, admitted that the defeat last year to England had taught them an invaluable lesson.
"One learns from those performances. We were probably off the pace," he said. "We perhaps went into that week having dropped off a bit."
McCaw, three times the IRB world player of the year, was diplomatic when asked whether he thought Irish great, centre Brian O'Driscoll, should perhaps call it a day after a disappointing performance against the Wallabies prompted some pundits to call on him to retire.
"I have got a huge amount of respect for him. He is hugely competitive," said McCaw. "I am sure he will be out there competing as never before on Sunday. He is a classy player.
"I think the thing is with guys of my age or older (O'Driscoll is 34) it comes down to desire and whether you are still willing to go to those dark places, by which I mean the intensive training routines.
"If that goes then it is time to go. It doesn't need the coach to come and tell you it is finished because great players will already know it is over."
McCaw himself, though, has given no indication that time is upon him yet and he admitted the handing over of the Webb Ellis Trophy had only reinforced his memories of what it took to win it and what was required to do so again.
"It is a funny old thing handing it back," he said.
"Every time I see the Cup it reminds me of the energy you require to put into winning it. Hence handing it over tonight I realised that I will have to go and find those energy levels again for 2015."