All Blacks focus on Australia, not retirement

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New Zealand look to experience as they prepare for world cup final against Australia.

All Blacks focus on Australia, not retirement

= INCLUDES WHITE FLASHES =

SHOWS: BAGSHOT, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (OCTOBER 29, 2015) (REUTERS – FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY)

1. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW ZEALAND CAPTAIN AND FLANKER RICHIE MCCAW SAYING:

“The only thing you take out of being in a final before is you know how deep you probably have to dig to get across the line. But, I think it is the only thing you know. And I think last week we had a bit of it, when you come down to making sure you win one or two moments that can be the difference. So, Saturday it may be exactly that. It is the one lesson you can take out of world cups gone by – obviously with our experience four years ago – but you look at all the teams what have won have had to dig pretty deep and that is what we know we are going to have do this week. So, not actually do anything magical, but it is about doing your job when it counts”

2. WHITE FLASH

3. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW ZEALAND HEAD COACH STEVE HANSEN, TALKING ABOUT FORM OF FLYHALF DAN CARTER, SAYING:

“When you start to play well it is a bit of a snowball; it gets bigger and bigger and all of a sudden it is an avalanche. He has played well and he is really starting to get his inner confidence and his self-belief and when he is like that he is a pretty special player. So, he is a special part of the team and we are looking forward to him going round on Saturday”

4. WHITE FLASH

5. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW ZEALAND CENTRE MA’A NONU SAYING:

“It was always a dream really (to play for New Zealand), when I was young. I guess, when you go through college and you see the All Blacks playing overseas, especially in South Africa or the UK, rugby is a big part of how we grow up, it is part of our history, it is part of who were are, for us, as men. And that is what we strive to become. I think when you become an All Black it is about more than just playing rugby, it is about representing your country, your family and being players that kids now aspire to be”

STORY: New Zealand go into Saturday’s (October 31) Rugby World Cup final against arch-rivals Australia knowing that they will need all the experience of a group of special players coming to the ends of their career if they are to be victorious.

The All Blacks have been heavily-tipped since before the tournament to retain the trophy they won in 2011 and they can draw upon more than 1,300 Test caps-worth of experience when they come up against a much younger Wallaby team at Twickenham.

Head coach Steve Hansen named an unchanged side from their hard-fought 20-18 victory over South Africa in the semi-final.

In doing so, Hansen named a Test squad with an average age of 28 and containing seven players who played in the 2011 final in Auckland.

Hansen said this stability was always part of the plan, but admitted that his team had been lucky not to suffer many injuries during the tournament.

While the All Blacks have maintained the form that saw them win the world cup on home soil four years ago, only losing three matches since then, Australia have had a more volatile four years.

After falling to sixth in the world rankings, current head coach Michael Cheika took over in November 2014 and since them has led the Wallabies to the Rugby Championship trophy, an unbeaten run in this world cup and – crucially – a victory over New Zealand in Sydney earlier this year.

Captain Richie McCaw, one of several players who might be retiring from internationals after the final, agreed with his coach that Australia had improved in recent months, saying that it would take an impressive performance to stop them on Saturday.

McCaw, who has a world record 147 caps, says that the only lesson he has taken from the All Blacks nail-biting 8-7 victory over France in 2011 was that, to win a world cup final, a team had to dig deeper than ever before.

“The only thing you take out of being in a final before is you know how deep you probably have to dig to get across the line. But, I think it is the only thing you know. And I think last week we had a bit of it, when you comes down to making sure you win one or two moments that can be the difference. So, Saturday it may be exactly that,” said the New Zealand captain and flanker.

“It is the one lesson you can take out of world cups gone by – obviously with our experience four years ago – but you look at all the teams what have won have had to dig pretty deep and that is what we know we are going to have do this week. So, not actually do anything magical, but it is about doing your job when it counts.”

As well as McCaw, flyhalf Dan Carter and centres Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith could be playing their last Test match for New Zealand on Saturday.

Carter, who missed the 2011 final through injury, has had to battle through adversity and injury over the past four years, but is now back on top form, making him arguably the best playmaker in the world.

He will play club rugby in France next season and head coach Hansen was full of praise for him.

“When you start to play well it is a bit of a snowball; it gets bigger and bigger and all of a sudden it is an avalanche. He has played well and he is really starting to get his inner confidence and his self-belief and when he is like that he is a pretty special player,” said Hansen of his star flyhalf.

“So, he is a special part of the team and we are looking forward to him going round on Saturday.”

McCaw refused to confirm, or deny, that he was retiring after the final, saying instead that he preferred to focus on the match and not let emotions get the better of him.

However, on reflecting on some of the all-time great international rugby careers, McCaw and Nonu, who will definitely retire after Saturday on 103 caps, both said it had been their dream since they were children to play for the All Blacks.

Both players also talked about the importance of leaving behind a legacy in the All Black shirt, particularly by becoming the first team to retain the world cup on Saturday.

“It was always a dream really (to play for New Zealand), when I was young,” said Nonu.

“I guess, when you go through college and you see the All Blacks playing overseas, especially in South Africa or the UK, rugby is a big part of how we grow up, it is part of our history, it is part of who were are, for us, as men. And that is what we strive to become.”

“I think when you become an All Black it is about more than just playing rugby, it is about representing your country, your family and being players that kids now aspire to be.”

New Zealand’s greats will look to cement their place in in rugby history with victory over the Wallabies when the two sides meet at Twickenham at 1600GMT on Saturday.

Tags : retirement, australia, focus, Blacks

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