Click here for photos from the New Zealand players’ media day in Hamilton on Wednesday.
Pictured above: New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, who skippers his country for only the third time on Saturday. The 25-year-old flanker will play at number 6 against Ireland with another out-and-out openside Marty Holah in at 7.
Former All Blacks flanker and captain Josh Kronfeld’s advice to McCaw this week was: “Keep your head down and your arse up!”
McCaw admitted: “I suppose I’ll have to do a little bit more in terms of off-field activities and assume a position more akin to a role model, more than before. But on the field, I don’t think anything will change. I still have to do my job to the best of my abilities and lead by example.”
All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu, who turned 24 last month, talks to reporters in Hamilton. The colourful Hurricanes player partners Aaron Mauger at centre for Saturday’s first Test. Nonu, who has not scored a Test try since 2004, will be hoping to have an extended stint in Graham Henry’s line-up following the retirement of Tana Umaga at the start of the year.
Richie McCaw is eagerly anticipating the All Blacks’ opening game of the season, but particularly as it is against Ireland.
The Oamaru-born forward said: “I’ve always enjoyed playing against the Irish, they’re a passionate team.
“They have the same passion as we do in New Zealand, and every game I have played (against them) has been a fairly tough one, even when they came out in 2002.
“We had a tough couple of games (back then) and this next two weeks is going to be a wee bit similar I’m thinking.”
The Durban-born lock Greg Rawlinson, nicknamed ‘Dolph’ because of his likeness to Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren, will make his debut for the All Blacks against Ireland. Rawlinson, who stands at 6ft 7in and weighs in at nearly 18 stone, has impressed New Zealand forwards coach Steve Hansen in training this week.
Hansen said of the 27-year-old Blues player: “Greg’s been like a kid in the candy store (in camp), he’s loving it.
“We’re loving having him here, his enthusiasm is rubbing off on other people. He’s a talented player, it’s just a matter of finetuning him on the way we do things up front and our systems and patterns.”
New Zealand winger Joe Rokocoko who is looking forward to his 31st cap at the weekend. The Fijian-born flyer made his Test debut against England in June 2003, aged just 20. He set a record for tries in a calendar year in 2003 – scoring 17 times in 12 Test appearances, including hat tricks against both France and Australia.
His current haul stand at 30 tries – the 23-year-old has never played against Ireland.
A radio reporter talks to New Zealand backs Mils Muliaina and Ma’a Nonu. Full-back Muliaina, who was born in Samoa, initially made his mark when he became a boarder at Kelston Boys High School in Auckland, Graham Henry’s old school, and earned inclusion in the New Zealand Schools team.
Muliaina, 25, made his All Blacks debut against England in June 2003 and played in 10 of New Zealand’s 12 Test matches last year. Like winger Rokocoko, Saturday will be his first appearance against Ireland. He was on the replacements bench for last November’s clash in Dublin, but not used. Leon MacDonald was the starting full-back for the Kiwis’ 45-7 victory.
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**