Thursday, June 07, 2007

News before Saturday's test (Yahooxtra!),,14646-7421939,00.html
Richie's sin-bins: blame me not refs
Duncan Johnstone
Richie McCaw blames himself not the referees for his Super 14 yellow cards and doesn't feel he's under extra scrutiny by the whistlemen as the World Cup draws closer.
McCaw's dominating abilities at the breakdowns have been a constant source of intrigue by opposition and he has regularly been accused of cheating by international coaches.
The All Blacks captain has always taken that in his stride, seeing it more as a compliment than a criticism.

But one yellow card for the All Blacks in last year's final test against Wales and two sin-binnings in his limited appearances for the Crusaders this year have raised the question: is McCaw under the microscope more in this biggest of years?
"I don't think too much more than in the past," said McCaw.

"I guess I ended up getting a couple of yellow cards but I think that was more through my own mistakes rather than refs looking at me more than usual.

"So from my point of view I was a bit disappointed that I made those mistakes but hopefully I can get that right."

McCaw and Daniel Carter loom as the two most influential All Blacks heading towards the World Cup. McCaw, in particular, has come in for special attention at times at all levels of rugby with some opposition reverting to a rough-house approach to counter his skills.

The French have a history of turning up the heat and producing questionable tactics at times but All Blacks coach Graham Henry is confident that Australian referee Stu Dickinson will be on top of things in this first test of the Iveco Series.

"The game's a physical game and I think the vast majority of games are refereed well. I'm sure Stu Dickinson tomorrow will be up to his usual high standard - he's one of the best referees in the world and we are pretty comfortable with him," said Henry.

"We don't expect anything other than the game to be played in the right spirit."
Henry has been on the record as suggesting that home crowds can influence referees. Could that happen at Eden Park?

"You have seen results over the years where home advantage is a positive and I think that may have some influence, maybe sub-consciously. You'd like to think it's a 50-50 deal every time a decision is made and that sub-conscious doesn't come into it.
"I guess that's one of the challenges of refereeing and officiating the game to the very highest standard and I guess that's a work-on for everybody. But some handle it better than others."

McCaw felt there was an extra edge to his side in camp this week that would hopefully offset the usual sort of problems associated with the first test of the season.

"The excitement levels have been pretty good this week and that's for a number of reasons. I think the guys are pretty happy to be back in this environment and looking forward to what is a pretty big year," he said.

"We want to start it off well. It's important that we get things right before we get to the Tri Nations. Hopefully we can put a performance out there that we are happy with tomorrow."


Richie raises the performance bar

Marc Hinton

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was prepared to give his men the benefit of the doubt last week, but he's issued a stern "must improve" warning for the side ahead of Saturday night's second test against France in Wellington.

McCaw, who's looking to shrug off a bothersome hip injury that forced him off at halftime of last weekend's 42-11 first-up win over the French, says he's expecting a real step up in standard from the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium.
It wasn't that he was particularly disappointed with last weekend's effort, which he described as "flat" and lacking accuracy across the board. It's more that this week he expects more. And what was good enough last week clearly won't be acceptable this one.

"As a whole we were just a little bit off right across the board," said McCaw of the opening hitout against the watered-down French outfit. "We were just a little bit flat. We made breaks but weren't quite in the right spots. It was just little things everyone was guilty of. But we're not too far off I don't think."

Asked about the message he'd sounded to his players this week given their 31-point victory at Eden Park, McCaw said there had been no emphasis on the scoreline. All the analysis had been about performance.

"We were happy enough how we played but we realise we've got quite a lot of work to do if we're going to play to our potential," he said.

"There's not a lot of messages that need to be given in terms of knowing where we are at. This week we've got a few personnel changes, they're keen to get out there and we're keen to lift our performance another level."

Asked by Yahoo!Xtra Rugby what he wanted to see from the All Blacks at the Cake Tin on Saturday night, McCaw made it clear he was after a tightening of the error-rate.

"Our scrum was dominant but we didn't get quality ball from it. Our lineout went OK but we only got some quality ball from it.

"So they're things really we've got to get right. Once we do that we'll create opportunities. We still did last week but we didn't finish them, and we didn't finish because guys were perhaps looking at the next job first.

"We weren't getting clean ball or we were just popping passes that didn't need to be popped. It's those little things that if we get right the performance will come right."

Oh, and there was one other thing that bothered McCaw slightly. Expect a major improvement in this area too.

"On defence we just weren't hungry enough. We made all our tackles, or most them, but we just didn't have that edge to it. That's something I'd like to see better."

But the skip wasn't pressing any panic buttons just yet. "We've got to be realistic. We only had four days' training to get everything under control and it wasn't all that bad.

"It wasn't perfect but it was a start. As long as this week we take another step up, and the following week we do the same, by the end of these three tests we want to be playing some pretty good rugby. And if we can do that we'll be happy."

McCaw also offered a strong hint that he might well sit out next week's test against Canada when he mentioned he doubted he'd play every test between now and the business end of the World Cup.

Noting "everyone wants to play every game", he added: "I have my suspicions they've got to make sure other guys are ready to play. Look what happened on Saturday. Chris [Masoe] had to play 40 minutes at 7. So we've got to make sure he's up to speed."

McCaw said he was not privy to the selectors' plans, and nor did he intend to make himself so.
"I don't know whether the coaches look too much further ahead than say these three tests. They've definitely got their plan, and I don't know what they'll do next week against Canada. They've said most of the guys will get a run these first few weeks, and that might mean I don't play."

McCaw was fairly relaxed about one thing concerning Saturday night. The presence of South African referee Craig Joubert made him feel some comfort in the always contentious area of the breakdown ruling.

"He's bloody good actually," said the All Blacks captain. "I rate him as a ref. He's a youngish fellow and he's got a really good demeanour about him. That's the big thing -- if you understand where the ref's coming from you understand how they're going to ref.

"As long as they're consistent you can work with that. It's the ones who are all over the shop that make it tough."

No comments: