« One bad day could happen… »
Richie McCaw was on the list of the 22 Abs who didn’t have the right to play the first part of the Super 14. After a long off-season, he was back on the field on March 23rd with the Crusaders (they won against the Stomers 36 to 11), another victory against the Waratahs before “eating alive” this weekend the Western Force (53 to 0). As he had just finished his French class, the Black skipper told us his view on the upcoming season, which could end in a World title –even if he refuses to confess it.
Q You have just ended a forced three-month-rest. How do you feel?
R It was good, physically and mentally. Mentally because for the first time in 6 or 7 years, I had the possibility to play my holidays and my weekends. I knew that the only thing I had to do during the week was to train, but I was free the rest of the time. No match, no tour ; I enjoyed my other hobbies : fishing and flying.
Q What’s the origin of these hobbies?
R My uncle had a trailer at the camp park of Kurow and since I was a kid, I went fishing salmon in the Waikati (River or area, no idea?) and trout in the lakes of Central Otago. As for flying, it’s a family tradition : my grand-father was a RAF pilot during WW2, he was in one of the squads which fought in the 1940 Battle of England but his main job consisted in “capturing” V1 missiles. My dad and my uncle became gliding pilots and I followed them.
Q Does it mean that it will be your after-rugby life?
R I am about to have my commercial licence but I think that is rather an other challenge. It’s a possibility, but I don’t see myself sitting in a cockpit, facing for hours a computer doing the job by itself. I’ve talked about it with other pilots and they think that gliding is the real Flying. Especially here in NZ where we have ideal weather conditions with variations of heat and cold. That’s really where I am having fun.
Q Did you also prepare the rugby season?
R I think that the “rest” we had to have was just for a physical reconditioning (or –ment?) The older you are –and I am not that old- the lazier you become. We don’t work as much as we should. I use this “rest” to improve my speed and my power, and it seems to pay : I am faster than in 2002, I have gained some muscles. And all the other players also beat their personal best in speed, strength and in long distance race.
Q The World Cup starts in less than 170 (less than 70 days now…) Do you live under pressure?
R I am glad that someone is actually counting the days for me! To me, the word “pressure” is used too often. My grandfather used to tell me about his air battles –and each time his achievements grew bigger –but I think that HE was under pressure with a Messerschmitt chasing his plane. I think that it’s normal to be worried before a match but I am surrounded by good people. There are good leaders around me, we share the responsibility of the group. I am not afraid of asking help if I need some.
Q NZ hasn’t won the World Cup in 20 years. The ABs are the favourites but don’t reach the final. What do you think about that?
R First of all, being favourite is quite positive : it means that what we do is good. I was in the 2003 team who lost the semi final against Australia and what hurt me that day, was that we didn’t play our best. There is no shame of losing as long as the opponent is better. We did a bad match –the first and the worst of year 2003. But you know, it takes 3 matches to win a World Cup : a quarter final, a semi final and a final. One bad day could happen and it would ruin the hopes built in 4 years. But I think that we will be better prepared than in 2003 or in 1999. We have learnt a lot from these two defeats. We won’t let the criticisms from the media or what people think influence our game. We set objectives and references we must reach, we will be our own judge with these things and not only with the result on the field. But despite that, I want to say that the situation at home has changed. I think that now, firing a coach or the captain because the team lost is no longer up-to-date. There was a time when the ABs entered the field with the fear of losing. Now we enter the field and we feel like winning.
Q Is it why since you get the captaincy, defeat has disappeared?
R We lost once, at Rustenburg against the Springboks, 21 to 20. I was very disappointed because we didn’t play our best. The press was bad towards Rodney So’oialo (the faults he made were converted by the South-Africans) But it’s a team performance that was not good! The good thing is that we have learnt from this defeat and that day we weren’t offensive enough (I am sorry for the technical details, my rugby vocabulary is not perfect!!!)
Q That is to say that, this season, you will try to score more.
R I think that everybody knows our game. I am convinced that the staffs of the teams against which we are going to play dissect our game, analyse it, to find our flaws.
Q Do you have the same preparation?
R We spend 80% of our preparation on our team, and then 20% on the opponent trying to get how they are going to play, what they are going to try. The difference between winning and losing a match is quite close ; it’s impossible to play at 100% during 80 minutes. There are few opportunities during a match, you have to take them. Our coaches are really good in this preparation.
Q What do you plan to do after the World Cup? Anton Oliver and Byron Kelleher will play in France. Would you do it?
R I have no particular plan. In the professional business, things move so fast that it’s useless to plan something. I will keep on fishing, flying/gliding, having fun with my friends –many of them don’t even like rugby. My 3 room-mates (gender unspecified –sorry girls!) scarcely attend matches. That’s what I want: a life apart from rugby… The day my body will say “Stop”, I’ll listen to it…
Q Did you watch some of the VI Nations matches?
R Actually, I watched the highlights. I went fishing at the Great Barrier Reef, and there was no TV there. I know that France won again and that the coach changed players quite often (heu, not really: he had to beg the staff of the French Barbarians to include some players so that they play one match…change your sources, Richie!) As you said, the World Cup starts in more than 5 months (2 months now) The European teams will improve and they will be ready for the big event in October (oh that’s sweet! Thank you, Richie!)
Q It’s the middle of the Super 14 and the NZ teams seem to be better than the others. Is it good for the All Blacks?
R There is no link between the Province matches and the international matches. The last seasons, teams from South Africa didn’t perform well in the Super 14 but the Springboks had good results (and they still do : since two S-Af teams were in the Super 14 final this year. Good preview Richie!) This year, the teams from Australia have had some problems but many of their players are injured: Latham, Larkham, Vickerman, Waugh, … But I am convinced that during the Tri Nations, they will be very competitive (Good preview Richie! Number 2 since this weekend, the All Blacks lost to the Wallabies…)
Q People say that you take French class. What’s your level?
R When you have never had French class, you can only improve your level. I try to learn but it’s very difficult. I can say that I am not tired but quite busy (I know some people who wouldn’t say no if they were asked to teach Richie some French...He just has to ask… I’m kidding!)
The author of the article is not specified.
Midi Olympique (page 21), Monday April 9th, 2007.