Sunday, March 25, 2007

Richie McCaw's final (article by Cass)

Cassandra Murnieks
Rugby Union

RICHIE McCAW isn’t much of a betting man, but if he was, he would put his money on the Canterbury Crusaders to win a fifth title.

The All Blacks captain made a comeback for the Crusaders last weekend against the Stormers after a seven-week hiatus, due to partaking in a Rugby World Cup conditioning programme.

The Openside Flanker made a strong return, and was heavily targeted by the Stormers. Fellow All Black Dan Carter was the standout, after scoring 16 points and setting up two tries to clinch the game 36-11.

Six All Blacks made their return for the Crusaders – McCaw, Carter, Chris Jack, Aaron Mauger, Leon MacDonald and Reuben Thorne.

Their return to the Super 14 proved to be successful, but not without a fright from the Stormers in the first half. With handling errors hitting double figures in the slippery conditions, the Crusaders will be looking to improve if they pose a real threat.

The Crusaders are currently sitting in third position, three points behind the Sharks and six points behind the competition leaders, the Blues.

With the All Blacks missing from their respective Super 14 teams for the first seven rounds, the season has been shaken up with the emergence of the South African teams and the Australian teams being struck with injuries, but McCaw remains positive that the Crusaders can win a fifth title.

“I believe that we are in with a chance to make the final,” He said.

“We try not to think of the end result, just about the week ahead. If we do that right, we’ll be there.”

But the past seven weeks didn’t mean anything and the real season now begins, according to McCaw.

“The last seven rounds is where it’s going to be at. It will depend how teams will go being on the road,” He said.

“It’s been an interesting season, and the competition is close and can go any way.

“The Blues have been the standout as well as the Sharks.”

If anyone can get the Crusaders to the final, it will be with the help of Robbie Deans, the Crusaders Coach who has guided the team to four titles.

Deans is about to come off contract, and it has been speculated that he may become the new Wallabies Coach, replacing John Connolly.

The Stormers have also held informal talks with Deans, although this has been denied by the Crusaders.

“Robbie hasn’t talked about his plans to us. He holds things pretty close to his chest.” McCaw said.

The New Zealand Rugby Union were criticised for pulling their stars out of the first seven weeks of the Super 14, but McCaw believes it will pay off.

“The senior players were consulted beforehand, and we were all for it,” McCaw said.

“We saw the benefit of taking place in the conditioning programme and could only see the positives.”

Positives indeed. Fullback Mils Muliaina put on 5kgs and Lock Jason Eaton 8kgs and insiders believe that the players are faster and better all-round, which is a daunting thought for the opposition.

With the Rugby World Cup starting in just under six months, there has been little talk amongst the All Black camp.

“We didn’t discuss the World Cup much throughout our time together,” McCaw said.

“We have started a bit of planning, but that’s about all.

“There was a squad of 22 during the programme, which won’t be the final numbers for France, so there was no sense in talking about it.

“Winning the World Cup is a nice goal to think about, but our main focus right now is with our Super 14 teams.”

The All Blacks will go into the Rugby World Cup as favourites, a tag that can be treated like a curse, but McCaw believes that they will be ready and better organised than the World Cup in Australia four years ago.

“I hope that we will be better prepared,” McCaw said.

“Our coaching staff is a lot more stable than the last World Cup. A lot of the players have been around for a while as well, so we are comfortable around one another.

“I think that we are in better shape heading into the World Cup.”

With the All Blacks clear favourites to win - France, Australia and South Africa are also ranked highly.

When asked how he sat with the ‘favourites’ tag, he was quick to pass judgement.

“It’s hard not to think about it, but we won’t let it get to us,” McCaw said

“I’m proud of our efforts over the last few years.

“We will stay level-headed and tackle each game at a time.”

A harsh reality for All Black fans is that this may be McCaw’s last World Cup, with him coming off contract this year.

With the news that fellow All Blacks Chris Jack, Byron Kelleher and Aaron Mauger will be heading to Europe after the World Cup, McCaw is currently in negotiations with the New Zealand Rugby Union.

“I have been talking to the NZRU about my future. Obviously my preference is to stay in New Zealand,” He said.

“I’m just weighing up everything at the moment and at some point in my career, I’d like to head to Europe to play.”
I am so sorry for the picture : it has nothing to do with the article but it had to be posted somewhere here. I do love the last sentence (there is still hope to catch him up there...but we have to wait!).
Thanks a lot Cass (and congratulations!)
Je suis desolee, la photo n'a rien a voir avec l'article mais elle se devait d'etre publiee sur ce blog. dans la derniere phrase, notre capitaine prefere confirme qu'il veut bien venir jouer en Europe mais pas pour le moment (pourquoi??) Ca nous laisse quand meme un peu d'espoir (et beaucoup de temps d'attente!)
Merci beaucoup, Cass et felicitations!
ps: la traduction sera en ligne dans la semaine...

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