The All Blacks are set to unleash a new game plan as they start their World Cup preparations with a one-off Test against Fiji on Friday.
New tactics could include an increased readiness to try drop-goals, a scoring system not popular in New Zealand that arguably contributed to the All Blacks quarterfinal loss at the last World Cup.
While the players have been involved in Super Rugby over the past six months, their coaches have been busy analysing the game and new trends that have emerged this season, head coach Graham Henry said.
While the coaches were giving nothing away, flyhalves Dan Carter and Colin Slade have been practicing dropped goals.
Co-coach Wayne Smith said the Fiji Test would provide an opportunity to assess the All Blacks, before the Tri-Nations series against South Africa and Australia before heading into the World Cup in September.
"We've looked at the game, looked at the trends and we'll play differently than we did last year."
Smith said it was evident from Super Rugby there was a lot more kicking this year but "kicking the ball aimlessly just because you're under pressure is not the answer. How you do it is the key."
Fiji, meanwhile, had their sole training run in New Zealand on Thursday and are determined to make the most of their rare opportunity to play the All Blacks despite being forced to field a weakened side.
"Playing against the All Blacks, you don't need any more motivation, if that's the case then we shouldn't turn up," coach Samu Domoni said.
"This is a once in a lifetime dream for all of us ... we'll grab it with both hands and take the opportunity."
A New Zealand travel ban on members of the Fiji military and the opposition of northern hemisphere clubs to releasing players meant up to 20 likely members of their World Cup squad are unavailable for the Test.
"There are a few things that have been involved in selections and a few club issues but we can control what we have at the moment," Domini said before putting a positive spin on the situation.
"The guys that are here have the heart to play for Fiji and that's what matters. It's a matter of heart."
Fiji have never come close to beating the All Blacks in their five matches.
Their best result was a 0-33 loss in 1980 while the biggest losing margin was 0-91 in 2005.
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: In the wake of all the Sonny Bill Williams hype and his much-publicised departure from the Hurricanes, Ma'a Nonu gets a first crack at the All Black No.12 jersey. He has to make it count. There is also a chance for Colin Slade - he of glass-jaw fame - to establish himself as a more permanent back-up to Dan Carter at No.10. Jarrad Hoeata, as the only debutant in the starting XV, will also be in the spotlight.
For Fiji: With so many frontline players not available it will be up to the entire team to make a game of it, but a seasoned player like flyhalf Seremaia Bai will have the extra responsibility of guiding the minnows through what is expected to be a slaughter.
Head to head: After having fractured his jaw twice already this year, All Black flyhalf Colin Slade may be a touch hesitant, considering his direct opponent is the abrasive French-based Fijian Seremaia Bai - who weighs in at almost 100 kilograms and enjoys the direct route. In this case that means running at Slade.
2005: New Zealand won 91-0, Albany
2002: New Zealand won 68-18, Wellington
1997: New Zealand won 71-5, Albany
1987: New Zealand won 74-13, Christchurch (World Cup pool match)
Prediction: You would be hard-pressed to find a bookmaker that gives the Fijians less than a 50-point head start. In fact most of them hover in the 670-point region and that is about spot on. This Fijian team will be no match for the All Blacks. There may be some early resistance, but New Zealand should win by at least 50 points.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 John Afoa, 18 Samuel Whitelock, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Daniel Carter, 22 Ben Smith.
Fiji: 15 Iliesa Keresoni, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Albert Vulivuli, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Seremaia Bai, 9 Vitori Buatava, 8 Sakiusa Matadigo, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu (captain), 5 Sekonaia Kalou, 4 Ifereimi Rawaqa, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Setefano Somoca, 18 Josefa Domolailai, 19 Malakai Ravulo, 20 Vitori Buatava, 21 Taniela Rawaqa, 22 Vereniki Goneva.
Date: Friday, July 22
Venue: Carisbrook, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
AFP & rugby365.com
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