Thursday, July 12, 2007

McCaw ready to lead the turnaround (

McCaw ready to lead the turnaround
RugbyHeaven Thursday, 12 July 2007

TAKING CHARGE: All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw says the last couple of test performances haven't been good enough and he's demanding a major step up starting in Christchurch on Saturday night.

So, Captain Fantastic is fallible after all. Richie McCaw says he has to shoulder much of the blame for the All Blacks' last-up defeat and he's pledging a hardening of the resolve this Saturday night in Christchurch.
In fact, the All Blacks skipper is demanding it.
McCaw made it more than clear when speaking to the media in Christchurch this week, during the buildup to Saturday night's Philips Tri-Nations clash against South Africa at Jade Stadium, that the 15-20 defeat to the Wallabies hurt him deeply.
And, yes, he was willing to accept that as captain of this All Blacks outfit, he has to take his fair share of responsibility for a performance in Melbourne that was, as Graham Henry so quaintly put it, just "not there".

"Everyone, myself included, put a lot of effort into the trip to South Africa. We took a while to get into that game and at the end we did what we needed to do," said McCaw.
"Then we got to Melbourne and I don't think we were all mentally quite there. We thought we were but come the end of it we weren't.
"The frustrating part was we got the foundation right, we just didn't finish the job. And myself, and the other leaders in the team, needed to make sure when the Wallabies got their tails up we changed our tack a wee bit – perhaps we didn't need to play with the ball behind the gain-line as we did a bit.
"I definitely take some of the responsibility for that. It has been a big learning curve for everyone."
That defeat has also put the All Blacks into rather a tight spot, regardless of how they handle a well under-strength Springboks outfit at Jade on Saturday night. Next week in Auckland will see both the Bledisloe and Tri-Nations trophies riding on the outcome, not to mention Australian confidence levels that are threatening to hit hyper-drive.

The Australians clearly sense the chance to inflict some serious psychological harm on the raging World Cup favourites, not to mention grab back a couple of pieces of silverware they haven't seen for a while. And they'll be ready to jump all over any chances to apply the pressure to their hosts.
McCaw isn't worrying too much about the Australians just yet, but he is well aware the foundations for next week will be laid on Saturday night at what should be a chilly Jade Stadium. That's also why he hasn't been bothered too much by all this talk about who's not here for the South Africans, rather than who actually is.
"We've had a good hard look at ourselves, rather than focus a lot on who we're playing this weekend," said McCaw. "Obviously we didn't quite get things right in Melbourne, so we've got to get our standards right.
"I watched a bit of that game last week [between Australian and South Africa] and they're not a bad team really. We've got to make sure we do it dead right this week and realise it's not an easy game at all, and that whoever pulls on the Springbok jersey is going to play their best."

McCaw, who has been hinting at a return to his own high personal standards in both the last two test outings, said the total effort in the Tri-Nations thus far has not been good enough. Handling errors and defensive lapses have been particular areas of concern.
The skipper pointed to patches of both the last two tests where the All Blacks fired, but bemoaned an inability to make the dominance count. And he wasn't willing to acknowledge the distraction of the looming World Cup as an acceptable excuse.
"We're trying to find out the reasons we haven't put it together for a whole game. It's too simple just to say the World Cup is down the track. These are big games where we want to get things ticking over so we get there in good shape. We've taken a good hard look at ourselves to make sure we get everything done better to help us perform on Saturday."

And, as McCaw was keen to acknowledge, there are only positives out of a defeat if you actually take the lessons on board.
"If we don't learn from this experience this team is in trouble," he said. "We've made sure we at least bring these things up, and the way we've trained has been a huge step up. The enthusiasm has been great this week, and I just hope we put it on out on the field.
"We identified when this team came together that the whole seven tests were important. The first five have been a start but we've really got to take a step forward over these last two. It's got to go up a level this week and I think everyone acknowledges that's got to happen now."
You get the feeling that this is one of those weeks when the skipper will be leading the charge. The big game may be next week, but the momentum for it starts this one.
John Kirwan (one of DC's idols, attending the ABs training on July 11th)

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