The All Blacks have inflicted their ruthless streak on
themselves since arriving in Scotland with a view to making an
emphatic statement at Murrayfield on Monday morning (NZT).
Their previous performance has been a festering sore - that
disjointed, erratic effort in their last test against
Australia three weeks ago has brewed discontent and
frustration within the camp.
It's obvious the All Blacks are simmering with self-loathing
at the way they played against the Wallabies on October 20.
They haven't forgiven their casual disregard for ball
retention and other basic tenets of the game, and won't
forget it until they have made amends with a performance of
which they can be proud.
The intention, obviously, is to deliver that performance in
Edinburgh and the analysis of the 18-18 draw in Brisbane has
formed the basis of most of this week's planning and
preparation. The problems have been identified and solutions
are now being applied and the All Blacks took what they hope
is another step towards restoration of normal service with
their first outdoor, full-blooded training in the Scottish
The hour-plus session in icy rain was intense and dynamic and
reflective of the fact that, regardless of what history and
world rankings say about the likely outcome on Monday, the
All Blacks know they must be clinical and accurate if they
are to deliver the performance they are after.
"We're coming off a pretty poor performance," said assistant
coach Ian Foster. "We've spent a few days searching for
answers why we had a bit of a hiccup at Brisbane.
"Our focus at this stage of the week has been on ourselves,
and we believe we have a couple of steps to climb to get to
the levels that we want.
"We've got to make sure we get the ingredients right and
don't peak too early."
The All Blacks will focus more on themselves than the
opposition this week, which might confirm in some minds that
they don't see the Scots as a serious threat. That's not all,
This year's theme has largely been about self-improvement and
taking individual and collective performance to a higher
level. No one in the All Blacks' camp doubts Scotland are
capable of an upset. In 2010 the All Blacks trounced the
Scots 49-3 only for the Celts to bounce back seven days later
with victory against South Africa.
Carelessness and complacency cost tests, and the All Blacks
are in no danger of being either - they simply believe that
if they have clarity about how they want to play on Monday
and reach their own performance expectations, the result will
take care of itself.
"The real fear is us not playing to the level we want,"
Foster said. "We don't want to lose, but we're also like any
other international team in that we want to play to a high
level and perform great every week.
"We were pretty disappointed by our last performance and we
see the first two games of this tour are really a chance for
us to get two great performances on the park."
- By Gregor Paul in Edinburgh