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Time to up the aggression says McCaw

NZPA     16 Jun 2006    

Players and coaches were stung by the rusty nature of their 34-23 first Test win at Hamilton last weekend.

They have spent the time since rectifying areas the Irish exposed for the first 60 minutes in a performance that threatened to end New Zealand's 100-year undefeated record between the two nations.

The two main problems were the lineout and the breakdown, where the All Blacks lacked co-ordination and, just as importantly, a physical edge.

McCaw reckoned the latter would be improved by the introduction of sizeable Blues forwards Troy Flavell (lock) and Jerome Kaino (blindside flank).

"They're aggressive, big men," McCaw said.

"I'm hoping as an eight we can all be a little more physical than we were last week, or perhaps assert our dominance a wee bit more. It took us a while to get into that last week."

That would flow into other parts of their game, including the breakdown. Last weekend renowned ball-snaffler McCaw didn't win a single ruck turnover.

"It's when you make offensive tackles that you allow those opportunities to arise and we were perhaps allowing them to run to us a wee bit."

Ireland today confirmed the same 22 would play at Eden Park. Fullback Geordan Murphy was cleared of an Achilles tendon niggle, meaning winger Denis Hickie holds onto his bench spot from the first Test.

Although it was late in Ireland's international season, McCaw expected they would lift again in a similar manner to last week.

"The Irish had a glimmer of hope to win the game and I'm sure they'll have that in the back of their minds. They won't see why they can't come out and give it another crack," he said.

"They'll be quite disappointed because they played fairly well for a fair part of the game and let it slip near the end. They'll be looking to put together a full performance."

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan said there was still room for improvement from his side but realised that was the case for the All Blacks too.

"The main was that discipline let us down, we can fix that, and some accuracy," he said.

"We got more accurate as the Six Nations went on but you step up another level again here and it's even more difficult.

"There's nothing we can't fix and kick on to another good performance. The good thing is that we know what we need to do to improve."

South African referee Jonathan Kaplan is not likely to be so lenient towards the outmatched Irish scrum tomorrow as Australian Stuart Dickinson was last week, meaning the All Blacks could gain an ascendancy there.

That could be further accentuated by the wet, wintry conditions forecast for Auckland tomorrow night.

McCaw said they couldn't rely on the referee and had to be smarter at the set pieces.

That included a change to their lineout calls system after several communication breakdowns caused by crowd noise last weekend.

"You don't know until you're in a battle and the heat really goes on whether the little things will fall apart," McCaw said.

The All Blacks have won their last 13 Tests at Eden Park, dating back to 1994.

They are chasing an 18th consecutive home win which will equal their longest unbeaten run at home, set from 1994 to 1998.

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Doug Howlett, Casey Laulala, Aaron Mauger, Joe Rokocoko, Luke McAlister, Byron Kelleher, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Chris Jack, Troy Flavell, Carl Hayman, Keven Mealamu, Clarke Dermody. Reserves: Andrew Hore, Neemia Tialata, Greg Rawlinson, Craig Newby, Jimmy Cowan, David Hill, Ma'a Nonu.

Ireland: Geordan Murphy, Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll (captain), Gordon D'Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer, Denis Leamy, David Wallace, Neil Best, Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan, John Hayes, Jerry Flannery, Marcus Horan. Reserves: Rory Best, Bryan Young, Mick O'Driscoll, Keith Gleeson, Isaac Boss, Denis Hickie, Girvan Dempsey

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Kickoff: 7.35pm