Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Richie McCaw on the Mini final in 2003

Source : France All Blacks, 100 ans de rencontres, de Ian BORTHWICK, éditions Aux vents des îles, Tahiti, 2006, p. 236

Richie McCaw
The mini final 2003

Whatever your view on this match, the mini final is a non-event, and was to me the toughest match for which I had to find some motivation. It was really weird to play a test-match whose result was just meaningless. Even when you play a match that you know you will win (like against the Fiji), you find some motivation. But for us, it was tough to find some motivation for this mini final and I’m sure it was the same for the French. When we lost the final on Saturday and the French lost the next day, all the ABs who had played we appointed for the mini final. But the French did the total opposite, they did massive changes in their team, and to me, it was as they had already given up. As if they were saying : “Yeah, we don’t care.”

Maybe they didn’t care, but we wanted to have a happy ending. That was my feeling. Of course, we could have done like the French and selected the players who hadn’t played that much… thinking about it now, it could have given some extra motivation.

What I do remember is that, we all still had in mind the defeat against Australia. The worst was that we all felt that we hadn’t played our best in semi final.We hadn’t played the game we loved, and we were pretty far from that level. If I had left the field with the feeling that we had played our best, but that despite that, we had ended second, then I would have accepted that. But it did not happen like that : we were not masters, very hesitating in our game, and mentally, we didn’t manage the pressure. So I remember starting thinking about that match as : “Damn it, we have to play some good rugby.” And in the end, I think that’s what we did. We scored a bunch of tries at the beginning of the match ; at the half time, we had a comfortable advantage. The second half time was closer, but we have never felt that we could lose to be honest. We had the feeling to have had the job done.

Moreover to me, the second half time was really special since Marty Holah had substituted Jerry Collins and I had to play center of the third line- I am not used to play - so it spiced up my end of the match.

I don’t think we have played that match with a special strategy –except maybe the strategy of showing that we were able to play as a team, and not as individuals. During the whole 2003 season, we had “used” our wings and backs to score some spectacular tries. We didn’t lose a single match during the whole Tri Nations, we beat records in Australia and in South Africa (50 vs. 21 ; 52 vs. 16), our team had played some great rugby. Then, against Australia in semi final, we lost our team spirit and they succeeded in choking us. That’s why to me, for the match against France, we had decided to play like a real team, and not like individuals as we had done the previous week. Obviously we knew that against the French who had a tough pack, there would be (and there were) some squabbling. We told ourselves : “It doesn’t matter, we are going to do what we have always done. Let’s do what we have always done and everything is gonna be all right.”

I lived the whole match in a kind of fag and I was quite relief when it ended. After the semi, we were all crushed ; but at the end of the match against France, we told ourselves : “It’s over, we can not change the past, so let’s have a little fun. We had to enjoy this moment together.” We drank some beers, some played guitars, the French joined us in the locker and we had a good party all together. And when Sid Millar (CEO ot the IRB) gave us our bronze medals, it was like : ‘Yeah, great, thanks Sid’.

Now, I see this match as the biggest non-event ever, and as a match which was not pleasant at all. After all I had heard about the matches France vs. NZ, their intensity, their physical challenge, their ferocity,… something was wrong. That match had shown zero intensity, for the good reason that this event was just weird! We were not playing against the host country and there was nothing to lose/win. And if we had lost (I feel quite ashame to say it but), we would not have cared much about it…

This match was full of emotions, the most important of them was : “Let’s get ride of this f**ing match and forget about it as soon as possible!” When we won, there was no joy, no jubilation, just a immense sense of relief. “Thanks God, we got ride of it!”

Should the mini final exist? I don’t know What I do know, is that it’s not a pleasant experience. It’s just a money-machine for the organisation of the World Cup, and that’s it. If it brings some money to the Rugby World, then I think we will have to deal with it. Because money controls everything and that’s the reality of today’s rugby.

For a match with zero intensity, it was yet very pleasant to watch it (and I still do it sometimes!) And please remark, that during a match with no intensity, our favorite captain gave him at 100%. Coz whatever he says, being an All Black and wearing the Silver Fern jersey gives the extra motivation you need for a match ;)
Should the French change their whole team? Why not. In any case, you win/lose the match at 30...so it was better to have the whole squad playing, no?

Tony Marsh didn't have a good Thursday night. When you watch the pics (not the match), it's as if he had been the target of his former countrymen... Pauvre Tony!
La VF par Sian

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