McCaw happy with changes ahead of Australia showdown

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The Independent Online

The radical shakeup of New Zealand's starting line-up for this week's Tri-Nations match against Australia emphasises that poor performances can no longer be tolerated, captain Richie McCaw said on Thursday.

Last Saturday's 32-29 defeat to South Africa in Hamilton not only assured the world champion Springboks of a first Tri-Nations title since 2004 but appeared to finally break the resolve of New Zealand's coaching staff.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry wielded the axe on Wednesday when he dropped five players and made two positional changes for Saturday's match at Westpac Stadium, where the loser will face the ignominy of receiving the tournament's wooden spoon.

"It sends a good message that if the team doesn't perform there are consequences," McCaw told reporters in Wellington. "That's what has happened this week.

"I guess this year with injuries and stuff it has made it a little bit harder to do that but it has got to the point where that has obviously changed."

McCaw said there had been a noticeable increase in intensity in training this week, with players anxious to atone for the error-laden performance at Waikato Stadium.

"There has been a bit of an edge this week," McCaw said.

"It was said on Monday that not everyone was assured of just rolling on again so I think that's good and the guys that are coming in get a chance and I think that's good.

"The big thing is to not dwell on last week. You can't let that get on top of you."

Australia, however, will focus on ensuring they do not let New Zealand back in the game if they forge ahead after holding narrow leads in their past four tests against the All Blacks only to come up short.

The All Blacks won the match in Brisbane last September 28-24 after being 10-points down just after halftime, then kept the Australians scoreless in the second half in Hong Kong last November before running out 19-14 victors.

This season, the Wallabies held a lead in Auckland in July only to lose 22-16, while the All Blacks overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to win last month's match in Sydney 19-18 after a last-gasp Daniel Carter penalty.

"If we're going to win this one, we have to work a hell of a lot harder," Wallaby blindside flanker Rocky Elsom told reporters. "Over the years, the All Blacks have been pretty good at getting away with games.

"It's often very small things that happen. We know that because it's happened to us a lot, where we've come close but not been able to finish it off."

Elsom said he felt the Wallabies' 21-6 victory over South Africa two weeks ago in Brisbane might just give his young team mates the belief to finish off test matches.

"The ability to keep at it, keep working and not have any lapses was a real positive out of that match," he said.

"There were a lot of good things that happened in Brisbane. We managed to get over the top of them as the game went on.

"That was a real positive but... it's going to be a new challenge against New Zealand and they've got a point to prove."

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