All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is fit and ready to enter what he regards as the two toughest challenges of the year for his team and a true test of what it's capable of.
McCaw suffered a badly bruised leg in the rugged victory over South Africa a fortnight ago and there were concerns in some quarters that the naming of Sam Cane on the reserves bench indicated that he wasn't 100 per cent well for the Rugby Championship match against Argentina in La Plata tomorrow. That tough prospect will be followed by a test against the Springboks in Johannesburg a week later.
However, today he confirmed he had no fitness issues.
"I'm fine. I was a bit ginger last week and I took a while to get going but it's been feeling pretty good for the last couple of days. There was never any doubt really. It's just one of those things that take a while.''
McCaw, who has been with the All Blacks in Argentina twice before - in 2001 and 2006 (although he didn't play in the latter game) wore padding on his sore leg at an intense training run yesterday but that was only a precaution.
He said the tough encounter against the Boks was the perfect lead-in to what he described as a "true test'' of the All Blacks.
"Certainly in Dunedin the physicality and intensity of that game was as high as it has been for a long time. I think it was a reminder for some and the others who hadn't experienced that before that that's exactly what's going to happen tomorrow.
"It will be that sort of intensity and having been through that experience I'm sure we'll all be better for it.
"It's different when you get on the road. It's a true test of where you're at mentally in your preparation to go and put a performance out there in a different setting.
"That's the sign of good teams. It's all very well to do it home but to get on the road and deal with all the other things you have to deal with and perform, that's the true test. These two weeks are hugely important but we haven't looked too far ahead of tomorrow really.''
McCaw, who will play his 111th test tomorrow, said he was sure the Australian team would pull together after the recent controversy surrounding Quade Cooper, who called the Wallabies environment "toxic'' and is now firmly on the outer.
Robbie Deans' team will play the Springboks in Pretoria tomorrow.
"A team like that, they will be in Pretoria and getting pretty tight about getting that job done and I know guys like Nathan Sharpe, good rugby men, proud men, who will be doing everything they can to make sure that environment works. Sometimes peripheral stuff, you can't worry about and I'm sure that's what Robbie will be emphasising. I can't understand someone going on like that but that's just the way it is I suppose.''
* Patrick McKendry flew to Argentina courtesy of LAN Airlines..