Rugby World Cup 2015

Don’t read results now as World Cup guide, says McCaw

New Zealand skipper says current form is a poor indicator for next year as Al Blacks focus on making it 3-for-3 against England

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 September, 2014, 9:26pm

The All Blacks are shutting out talk that their series win over England is a good omen ahead of the World Cup, insisting they are taking one match at a time.

The reigning world champions wrapped up the series by winning the first two tests and go into the dead-rubber final match in Hamilton on Saturday favoured to complete a clean sweep.

England have consistently said through the tour they have an eye on the World Cup on home soil next year.

But captain Richie McCaw said history showed that form before the World Cup was not always a handy guide.

If you’re looking to 15 months’ time you want to be performing well [now] and feeling like you’re improving
Richie McCaw

He pointed to the 2007 event when New Zealand were beaten in the quarter-finals despite being hot favourites for the title.

"The great thing about this All Blacks is you go out to win every test and every series and that's the first and foremost goal. If you do that right what happens next week or next year will take care of itself," he said.

"If you're looking to 15 months' time you want to be performing well [now] and feeling like you're improving.

"I think back to '07 when 12 months out the Springboks weren't going too good and they won the thing. We lost a couple of games leading into the last World Cup, so things can change."

Should the All Blacks win on Saturday they will equal the record of 17 consecutive test victories held by the 1965-69 All Blacks and 1997-98 Springboks.

England favoured a solid set-piece and kick-chase game in the first test and attempted to attack out wide in the second, but neither of coach Stuart Lancaster's plans worked.

"So what are they going to do now?" All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wondered.

"I have heard Stuart say in the paper that they shouldn't play too much rugby down their end. So are they going to kick it a wee bit more?"

The All Blacks' game plan has not varied, with an emphasis on moving the ball at pace and always looking for counter-attacking opportunities.

Only a couple of injury-forced changes have been made to give the team a solid, familiar look.

England, however, made five changes for the second test and, with the late withdrawal of lock Geoff Parling, eight for the third in a wide-reaching search for the elusive win.

In a last throw of the dice to avoid a 3-0 whitewash, Lancaster was giving little away ahead of the match other than talking up England's rush defence as "clearly part of our armoury and we'll obviously try to shut the space down".

England assistant coach Andy Farrell said their motivation was to end the season on a high and to do that they need to ensure the All Blacks "can't play at the pace that they want to play".

Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi have been reunited in the centre of a rejigged England backline and will test rookie Malakai Fekitoa in his first test start.

Big backrower Billy Vunipola, lock Courtney Lawes and New Zealand-born hooker Dylan Hartley have been added to bolster England's pack.

The return of backrower Kieran Read should strengthen the All Blacks' running game, with his talent for lingering out wide to create opportunities for his wings. This leaves Jerome Kaino, back in his familiar blindside role, free to mop up any problems that may arise close to the ruck.

After inconsistent performances in the first two weeks, in which the third quarter of the second test was the only time the All Blacks were in total control, McCaw said they wanted a complete performance.

"It would be horrible to go away from this three-match series saying, 'Yeah, we won it but haven't performed in that last one'. That's what the driver is," McCaw said.

"We showed in that 20 minutes [of the second test] when we started to believe in what we're doing more, and it started to happen, it shows the skills and the guys showed what they can do.

"It would be nice to do that for longer."