All Black coach Graham Henry has acknowledged that his team need to adapt their game from the formula that served them so well last year in order to stay ahead of the chasing pack.
Henry came in for heavy criticism following the 2007 World Cup in France for obdurately sticking to the expansive game that had installed them as hot favourites for the showpiece event, and the early indications are that he won't be making the same mistake this time around.
The pressure on the All Blacks to lift the Webb Ellis trophy on home soil this year is immense and many are questioning whether the attractive brand of rugby which saw them claim the Tri-Nations, Bledisloe Cup and complete the Grand Slam on their year-end tour last year will secure rugby's greatest prize later this year.
With the Crusaders stumbling at the final Super Rugby hurdle in Brisbane last week, the nerves are starting to jangle in the Land of the Silver Fern and some are calling for a more narrow, direct approach which is perhaps more prudent in the pressure cooker of knock-out rugby.
Henry is aware that his team need to constantly develop their style in order to stay a step ahead of their rivals, both in the Tri-Nations and at the World Cup.
He told The Press: "I think we have to make sure we keep ahead of the pack. If we don't improve what we are doing, we will get run over by some very good sides in the world.
"That is the challenge we have done well at in recent times. We need to make sure we introduce subtleties to our game plan that did not happen in 2010 and try and do that in 2011, and also make sure we get alignment in that with the rest of the team," added the All Black boss.
However, this does not mean that his team will sacrifice their high standards and expectations in the build up to the World Cup. Henry's plan is to introduce subtle variations rather than make wholesale changes, and he certainly does not expect to compromise on results.
"We want to win the Tri-Nations. Our focus hasn't changed, obviously we've got a mind on the World Cup, but we want to play good football in the Tri-Nations and to try and win it. That hasn't changed in the last 110 years and it's not going to change over the next month or two," he said.
The All Black mentor has been hard at work analysing the game this year and he is very wary of stagnating rather than moving forward and developing his team's style of play.
He explained: "We're going through a process of analysing the game, we've spent a lot of time on that. I'm sick of it quite frankly, I've been doing it for about seven months.
But I think there are things we can add to our game which is going to add to what we do on the field and hopefully keep us a step ahead and hopefully we can bring that through in the Tri-Nations and World Cup.
"Our game we play in 2011 is going to be different to what we played in 2010 and if that means winning ugly, it means winning ugly but I think it will be an attractive game of footie," he said.
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