Assistant coach Ian Foster says the looming retirement from Test rugby of greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter won’t figure in the All Blacks’ preparation for Saturday’s World Cup final against Australia.
A World Cup victory would be a fitting farewell for the record-setting McCaw and Carter who between them have played 258 Tests.
But Foster insisted on Monday the emotion attached to their departure would be blocked out until after the final whistle at Twickenham.
“We’ve got a World Cup final on Saturday and nothing else really matters apart from us preparing well,” he said.
“It’s all about the here and the now. This is the moment and there’ll be plenty of time afterwards to talk about people but we don’t want to waste this opportunity.
“We’re putting everything we can into doing the only thing we can do which is to prepare well day by day.”
Carter, the top points scorer in Test rugby who joins Racing 92 in France after the World Cup, said before the All Blacks beat South Africa 20-18 in the semi-final that his focus was solely on the team performance.
McCaw, the most capped player in Test history and three-time world player of the year, has refused to discuss retirement although he indicated early this year he would bow out after the World Cup.
New Zealand and Australia have played each other twice so far this year with a win each.
Both favour fast-running free-flowing rugby.
But the All Blacks have already started video analysis of how Australia beat Argentina 29-15 in their semi-final on Sunday to detect any adjustments to their regular pattern.
Particular attention has been paid to Wallabies twin scavengers Michael Hooper and David Pocock, who gave New Zealand a torrid time at the breakdown in Sydney this year when the Australia beat the All Blacks 27-19.
A week later, with only one of the duo on the field — Pocock came off the bench to replace Hooper at half-time – the All Blacks triumphed 41-13 at Eden Park.
“It reaffirms they’ve got some good players, that’s why they are in the final,” Foster said, acknowledging questions about Pocock and Hooper but refusing to refer to them by name.
“They have got some areas of strength that they’ll try to attack us with and we have got some areas of strength we’ll try and attack them.
“The lessons we have learned from Sydney and Eden Park we’ve already applied in our game and put into practice.”
The All Blacks head towards Saturday’s final with all players fit. The replacement of injured Tony Woodcock by Joe Moody before their quarter-final against France has been the only disruption to the original World Cup squad of 31.
Apart from the McCaw-Carter farewell, there is also national honour at stake as New Zealand prepare to play their neighbours Australia for the third time this year in a world final.
Australia have already bagged the world cricket and netball titles, leaving rugby New Zealanders hoping it will be third time lucky