Thursday, July 19, 2007

McCaw defends himself from latest critics (

McCaw defends himself from latest critics

Loose forward play from ace flanker Richie McCaw's viewpoint was outlined when he defended himself in Auckland on Thursday from yet another string of accusations, this time by Springboks captain Johann Muller.

Muller claimed after Saturday's 36-6 win by the All Blacks over South Africa in Christchurch that referees were too scared to confront McCaw in his area of dominance at the breakdown.

The claims are not new and have provoked a string of responses, from New Zealand supporters especially.

McCaw hadn't spoken about the matter until the pre-game press conference and admitted that all the comment got a bit tiring after a while.

"But I guess that's just what you expect, the position you play and being part of this team, there's always going to be bits and pieces like that. I don't even think about it to be honest, just laugh at it and carry on. I heard the comments after the South African game but I thought first I and, as a team, we were fairly accurate in what we did. I only got penalised a couple of times and one of them was fairly harsh I thought. For me, in the rules it is fairly clear, really clear about what you are allowed to do and what you aren't allowed to do."

He explained that what made it tough for referees and from the public watching was that things happened so quickly and it was a case of where the refereeing was looking that decided who was going to be in the firing line.

"Whether they look at the defensive player coming in first, and maybe he comes through on the wrong angle but the attacking player could have as well, but that gets missed. That is what is pretty tough about the breakdown and how you fix that I have no idea," he said."That's why there are different interpretations because some refs will look more harshly at the tackler on the ground whereas other refs will look at the guys arriving."

McCaw said the key was to do well as a team and to get the ball across the advantage line because then it became clear who was infringing and who was not.

When playing the ball behind the advantage line, opposing sides could slow the ball down because the defending players had to retreat through the gate.

So as a team policy it was the goal to aim at not worrying about how the breakdown was refereed but to take those decisions and make it easier to get that ball.

McCaw didn't agree that referees were intimidated by him. He said if that was the case they shouldn't be refereeing because there were a lot of other things where the ref could be influenced, like the crowd, players talking and the like.

"If that is going to intimidate how a ref refs then we have got a lot of trouble," he said.

In the Southern Hemisphere the role of an openside flanker was firstly to look after his own side's ball and to put pressure on the opposition's ball and to try and be first to the breakdown so he could have first chance at turning the ball over.

Northern Hemisphere players tended to take a different approach.It was certain in Saturday's Test that George Smith, his Australian rival, would put pressure on the ball.

"When he's there you've got to make sure he doesn't get that chance," he said.

McCaw said that as long as he understood why he was being penalised he was happy with the referee's choice. He related the instance in Melbourne where the referee said he didn't believe McCaw was the tackler in a breakdown penalty awarded against him. [Television replays confirmed he was the tackler].

In that situation McCaw said it was not worth talking to him in that situation because the referee obviously didn't see it. It was that instance that had All Blacks forwards coach Steve Hansen commenting that McCaw was so fast he created an optical illusion for the referees.

There was a point of discussion when referees didn't call that a ruck had been formed and then penalised players for handling the ball. McCaw said he always checked before a game with the referee whether he would call a ruck was formed or not.

It was just a case of making it clear how he was going to interpret the area so that McCaw could make any necessary adjustments.

"Different referees will allow you to do different things. I talk to them before every game. First of all at a breakdown some call 'hands off' and some call 'ruck formed'. And I say to them that I am going to listen to that as much as possible'.

McCaw said he added to the referee, "Sometimes I won't hear but I am going to have a go at it until you tell me I can't and I will make an effort to get out of the way.
"As long as I do that and know what's happening hopefully I should get away with it."For the most part it works fairly well," he said.

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