Monday, July 30, 2007

McCaw's pledge: Our best is to come (rugby heaven)
Marc Hinton
Saturday, July 28, 2007

Get this. All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw agrees with those over-eager northern critics who say the New Zealanders are short of their best form these few short weeks before the next World Cup.
But the difference is McCaw doesn't believe it's a concern. In fact, quite the opposite. In a frank discussion with RugbyHeaven before embarking on his well-deserved break following the Philips Tri-Nations triumph in Auckland, the champion No 7 revealed the All Blacks are just where he wants them to be with around seven weeks remaining till the Cup kickoff.

You see McCaw has been in this situation before. Four years ago the New Zealanders positively hummed through the Tri-Nations, and a fat lot of good it did them come World Cup time when they failed to reproduce their best football when it counted.

So, right now, with the final touches still to be applied to preparations, McCaw is happy for a few barbs to come their way from the northern critics. It's a small price to pay for a campaign he believes is bubbling along just nicely.

"We've had glimpses of what we can do, but we just haven't quite put it together," McCaw told RugbyHeaven. "I guess that keeps your feet on the ground because you always know you can improve and we're going to have to improve. We were in this situation last time where we thought we were in good nick and perhaps we didn't improve as much as we should have. Over the next few weeks and by the next couple of months we've got to be even better."

While some of the more optimistic types in the north are suggesting the All Blacks' recent form concerns make them vulnerable in the upcoming global tournament, McCaw just figures it's a sign the side is still building.

"We've got to make sure that what we've done up till now we don't go back at all," said McCaw. "We've got to keep things ticking along so by the first game we will be another step up the ladder. The next four weeks will be bloody important for that. I don't think it will be a problem at all. The excitement and enthusiasm has been there but there will be another wee edge to it I'd suggest."

Though McCaw talks about this All Blacks World Cup squad, with so many survivors from 2003, carrying a real edge in terms of experience and motivation, he also cautions against looking to carry too much of the burden of history.

"You can't afford to because then it just becomes a big weight on your shoulders and that isn't going to help you do your job," he says. "That's always going to be there a little bit, but if you look at it like the glass half-full trick you get excited about it and you'll enjoy it."

RugbyHeaven asked McCaw what it meant to him to be going to another World Cup, particularly as captain of the side rated the hottest of favourites?

"It would be easy just to brush over this and say it's just another All Black team that's been announced, but it's quite significant. We Kiwis aren't real good at saying I'm proud to be named in a World Cup team because not everyone gets a chance in their careers to go to a World Cup and have a crack at the biggest prize in rugby. It's something you've got to put in perspective and remind yourself that the hard work you've put in has paid off and the harder work will start now, starting here today. You can certainly reflect, and it's bloody satisfying."

What will be even more satisfying is silencing those critics who continue to build pressure on this All Black team and their now 20-year wait to be crowned world champions again.

McCaw says his approach is not to let past failures raise the stakes any higher than they need to be. There's enough pressure without peering too closely at the history books.

"The way I look at it is what a great challenge it is, and you've got to be excited about it. A lot of people would love to have a chance to go play in a World Cup and we've got that chance."

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