All Blacks Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina have highlighted this European tour as an opportunity to iron out the side’s deficiencies.
New Zealand’s 15-game winning streak came to an end this September when the Springboks beat them in Rustenburg. The All Black captain saw this loss as a blessing, as problem areas will now be given due attention.
“We did have to take a good, hard look at ourselves.I know the coaches and a few senior players have talked about a few things we need to sort out,” McCaw said.”Perhaps we wouldn’t have looked at them as closely if we had won that game. Hopefully we’ll improve from that.”
The line-out has been an area where the world’s top-ranked team have struggled this year, and the team will be looking to be more competitive in Europe where the set pieces are so important. By the end of this tour, they will know where they stand.
“We’ve made a few subtle changes and come up with a few new things that we are going to try. It won’t happen overnight, but we’ve got a plan in place. Hopefully it is better because for the next 12 months it is going to be a pretty critical part of what we do,” he said.
After winning the New Zealand domestic title with Waikato, Muliaina is keen to see the national team return to winning form, and stated that the last game in South Africa had been an anticlimax.
“The opportunities we did have we spilled ball,” he said. “We lacked the spark, the zip. It felt like a Sunday afternoon when we went out there and just went through the motions. And you can’t really afford to do that.
“We had a conversation about Rustenburg but now we have the opportunity to build on that and come out firing – and what better team to do it against [than England], and at Twickenham too, so we’re looking forward to that.”
While the All Blacks are wary of the Poms, it is no secret that they regard the two games against France as the toughest of the tour.
“France will be huge. We won pretty convincingly last time [45-6] and they’ve had two years to think about it. That’s a pretty long time for some French boys, so they’ll be coming out firing.
“When the French A team turns up they can destroy you. We haven’t had that the last few times when I’ve played them, and hopefully it can stay like that.
“We definitely know that if they can get their game going, they have got some flairy backs and can score from anywhere. It will definitely be a good challenge,” he said.