Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Time will tell if attitude has improved - McCaw

"Attitude" has been a word used a lot among the All Blacks this week and skipper Richie McCaw says it remains to be seen whether the required improvements have been made after last week's escape act in Christchurch.

McCaw said he believed preparations for the second test at AMI Stadium had gone okay following the big win in Auckland, but Ireland brought an intensity the All Blacks simply couldn't match. He didn't say it but his side were extremely lucky to get away with a victory, which came courtesy of Dan Carter's left boot.

Carter's hamstring injury means he won't be on the Waikato Stadium pitch tomorrow night, his place taken by Chiefs playmaker Aaron Cruden, but McCaw said there had been an extra edge about the camp this week and that has been led by coach Steve Hansen.

"There has with everyone really but it has been led by Steve," McCaw said. "We thought we had a good week last week, but in hindsight ... it didn't have the same feel to the one before.

What the reason for that is I'm not sure, probably a lot of things, but certainly how tight it got last week put a lot of guys' feet back on the ground.

"It's not just Steve, it's all the guys who have been around for a while who know what it will take. There's a wee bit of edge everywhere."

Asked if the All Blacks would respond accordingly to the Irish challenge after his side had already won the series, he responded: "We'll see tomorrow, that's when it counts."

McCaw added: "We just want to get a good performance together. Last week we were disappointed we didn't perform as well as we did the week before. We were up against an Irish team which went up a step and we have to make sure that we progress. We'll all break up for a while now after this game and we have to make sure we finish with a good performance."

McCaw is in the relatively unfamiliar position of No8. Of the 100 tests he has started, this is the first time he has begun at the back of the scrum.

However, he said it wasn't a case of learning new things this week, more a case of ensuring he and fellow loose forwards Sam Cane and Liam Messam worked together effectively.

With Cane starting his first test tomorrow night, the trio has spent little time together as a combination.

"I played 40 minutes there [No8] last week so it hasn't been too different this week. Obviously we're making sure Liam fits in well and that the three of us fit in well together. At the end of the day apart from some set piece stuff you don't change your game a whole lot."

McCaw was particularly impressed with Chiefs openside Cane, a 20-year-old who played his first test last weekend when coming on after halftime for the injured Kieran Read.

"He couldn't got a more pressure situation to come on in your first test. He did particularly well I thought. It seemed he had been around for a while."

"Attitude", "edge" and one more key word - "balance". McCaw said the All Blacks were guilty of not playing at the right end of the field in difficult conditions in Christchurch. Slippery conditions are again likely in Hamilton.

"We have to make sure we get the balance right - playing enough rugby but not putting ourselves under too much pressure. If it's wet you've got to be even more careful of that."

- APNZ

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