All Blacks captain Richie McCaw says there are no more excuses for what he describes as a patchy start to their Rugby World Cup title defence.
Veteran flanker McCaw is demanding an improvement from their strongest available lineup when they face world No.13 Georgia for the first ever time in Cardiff on Friday.
The European side are fielding a virtual second-string outfit but that is of no concern to McCaw, who is calling on New Zealand to look inwards and address the problems from opening pool C wins in London over Argentina, 26-16, and Namibia, 58-14.
“Performance-wise, we need to take a step up,” McCaw said.
“We have all had a run in the first two games, so there are no excuses for not being ready to go.
“There has been a bit of an edge this week in terms of putting right the things that were a little bit off in those opening two games.”
McCaw says they weren’t as physical as they needed to be against the Pumas while poor basic skills were an issue in the stop-start fixture against minnows Namibia.
Coach Steve Hansen has reacted by dropping veteran props Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks to the reserves bench, replaced by more mobile Wyatt Crockett pair and Charlie Faumuina.
McCaw says the changes haven’t necessarily added extra motivation for senior players to perform.
“The fact that we are going into the third game of the World Cup means there is a bit of an edge there.
“The main focus is about us getting our game spot-on. The excitement we have got from that is enough.”
Much of the focus will be on exciting wing Waisake Naholo, who plays his first game of the tournament, having overcome a leg fracture suffered in his Test debut 10 weeks ago.
Georgia opened their campaign with a narrow win over Tonga but were hammered by Argentina.
They are targeting third place in the pool, which they should achieve if victorious against Namibia in their final game.