All Black captain Richie McCaw poses for a photo in
Edinburgh after the team's arrival in Scotland. (Photo by
Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
All Black captain Richie McCaw has been quick to send a
message to his players on arrival in Edinburgh for their first
of four tests in Europe.
McCaw's team have arrived to a gloomy Scottish capital
already gripped by the chill of winter and the skipper's
message to media eager to learn about the team's new rotation
policy and potential new captain was as short as the days are
becoming in this part of the world.
"We've got a four-week challenge but can't go past [focusing
on] each week," he said. "Yes, there will be some changes but
we've to to keep our focus on the week, that's going to be
the critical part."
Coach Steve Hansen has stated several times that every player
in his 32-strong touring squad will play in the first two
tests, against Scotland at Murrayfield next Monday (NZT) and
Italy in Rome six days later.
He has wisely put it into the public domain early in order to
get All Black supporters used to the idea - the "rotation" of
players hasn't done down well previously - but it would also
have been done with his players in mind.
They will know exactly what to expect over the next couple of
weeks, and the fact that the match-day squad of 22 will be
picked on merit for the next two tests, against Wales in
Cardiff and England at Twickenham.
McCaw has also taken the opportunity to focus his players'
minds in an early encounter with the press pack, but who will
replace him as captain in either the Scotland or Italy test
remains a mystery.
It is highly likely to be McCaw's Crusaders teammate and
fellow loose forward Kieran Read, but Hansen is keeping those
particular cards close to his chest, suggesting it could also
be playmaker and fellow red and black representative Dan
After the team ran off the rustiness of their two long
flights with a game of indoor football - the players split
into north versus south, with Ma'a Nonu said to take great
relish in playing for the south by virtue of his signing with
the Highlanders - Hansen told media of his options at captain
without committing to Read, as he is eventually likely to do.
"DC has already been vice-captain, he was meant to play as
captain against Canada in the World Cup [before injury], and
Kieran has led the Crusaders in Richie's absence, so it
depends on what combination we put on the park," Hansen said.
If Carter is issued with the captaincy it is likely to be a
temporary burden - Read is a much more likely candidate for
the role in next June's three tests against France when McCaw
will be on his break from the game.
Sam Cane will wear the No7 jersey in McCaw's absence, with
newcomers, hooker Dane Coles, and halfback Tawera
Kerr-Barlow, likely to earn their first caps over the next
Scotland coach Andy Robinson is likely to be pragmatic about
his goals against the All Blacks, a team he has described as
worthy world champions.
"New Zealand are formidable opponents. They do the basics
exceptionally well and play with a pace and ruthlessness.
It's no coincidence that they are the best team in the
world," Robinson said.
He has selected seven newcomers to his squad, of which 11
were unable to train due to injury when they assembled for a
camp at St Andrews last week.