Rugby: McCaw demands focus for Europe tests

All Black captain Richie McCaw poses for a photo in Edinburgh after the team's arrival in...
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 Carter.

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 two weeks.

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.


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