Despite being comprehensively beaten 42-10 in Auckland in the series opener, the Leinster flanker has revealed morale within the squad remains good as they look to make it a closer contest in Christchurch on Saturday.
McLaughlin, who will make his first international start in two years at the AMI Stadium, said: "There was definitely an element there of the lads having to step up to the speed of the game. Super Rugby is a lot different to the RaboDirect - it is a lot faster.
"The Kiwis just ran from everywhere, especially when we kicked loosely a couple of times, they were pretty unstoppable in their counter-attack. We just need to be a lot tighter defensively and up to the pace of the game.
"We know the level we have to be at now to compete. Training this week has been really sharp. There has been no heads down or anything. We are in a really good position to go out and have a good go at them."
McLaughlin returned from an ankle injury to play a key role in Leinster's Heineken Cup success over Ulster and the 27-year-old believes having several club-mates alongside him will benefit Ireland this weekend.
He said: "I was happy with how the Heineken Cup Final went. Seanie (O'Brien) played unbelievably and I felt that I did my job. It is brilliant having some familiar faces in the back row. It means that I can just go out there and play my own game."
He added: "Peter (O'Mahony) went well last week but, as you say, myself, Sean and Jamie (Heaslip) play together week-in, week-out and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"We're used to playing off each other. That is an obvious advantage for me, coming into the side."
McLaughlin's view, however, was only partially shared by Leinster's Gordon D'Arcy, who returns to the side on Saturday in place of the injured Keith Earls and will partner captain Brian O'Driscoll for the 48th time in midfield.
"The familiarity helps a bit," he said, "and you develop a certain rapport with them.
"However, we're not playing for Leinster, we're playing for Ireland. It's a whole new set of rules and a new level of intensity."
He added: "From club and provincial rugby to international rugby is another level up. The whole physicality and the burn on the lungs.
"Across the board in our whole team we have players that have been in tight places and they've won. A lot of those games have been with Ireland, so we know what it takes to grind out wins and to go to places where you have to get those wins.
"We're very realistic, though. It will take every ounce we have to get one of those this weekend."
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