Carter: All Blacks must cope with pressure
AUCKLAND, 30 Aug. - Dan Carter believes New Zealand's hopes of victory at Rugby World Cup 2011 depend on how well they cope with the mental pressure of playing in front of their rugby-mad public.
The All Blacks enter another RWC as favourites but successive Test defeats against South Africa and Australia have put the host nation in a familiarly nervous mood ahead of the 9 September kick-off against Tonga.
However, New Zealand's talismanic fly half is confident the squad will be mentally prepared to deal with challenges in their quest for a first world title since they hosted the inaugural event in1987.
"It's going to be important how we handle that," Carter said when asked about the pressure.
"Everything is not going to run smoothly and go our way all the time, and it's important when that happens that we concentrate on the next task, and help the players get back in the moment and keep relaxed.
"We do a lot of work on the mental side of the game and that's going to be important."
Carter is adamant that losing 25-20 to Australia in Saturday's Tri Nations decider in Brisbane can be turned into a positive.
"It did hurt but it was a good lesson for us. We know we have to start well from that first whistle, which we didn't. It was a frustrating game because one little mistake led to another.
"We know we have to work harder as a team. There is some quality opposition out there. Australia and South Africa have showed that (in the Tri Nations), so we need to try to stop them."
Asked whether the All Blacks' confidence had been dented, Carter replied: "I don't think anything changes. It brings more excitement because we all know that any team can beat any other on their day, and that's the beauty of the World Cup."
While some pundits have written off the chances of the northern hemisphere sides, Carter thinks the tournament is wide open.
"I think World Cups are a lot different to tours and one-off Test matches, and I think the northern hemisphere sides will have a great chance. Once you get to the knockout stages, anything can happen.
"England have been in fantastic form in the last 18 months and the French are extremely dangerous. You can never rule out the northern hemisphere teams."
Second row Ali Williams agrees with Carter that dealing with the pressure of being hosts - however each player does that - will be crucial.
"I think you just have to embrace it," Williams said of the national obsession and its impact on the players. "Everyone has their own coping strategies. Some like to be out there enjoying it, others like to be more quiet. Whatever works for you, keep doing it."
Williams joins Carter, Richie McCaw, Mils Muliaina and Keven Mealamu in the group of All Blacks set to take part their third RWC, and he intends to savour it.
"As a fan watching it on TV, my favourite memories are from 1995 in South Africa, the intensity of the final and the passion the country showed towards the game. I also loved the last one in France, the way everyone embraced the event and got into it.
"As a player, I'm hoping my own highlight will come in about eight weeks."
And who does Williams think is the main rival for World Cup glory?
"Sam Whitelock because he's in my position at the moment."
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