Saturday, September 01, 2007

McCaw feels the privilege of New Zealand's hottest seat (guardian.co.uk)

http://sport.guardian.co.uk/rugbyworldcup2007/story/0,,2160215,00.html

The All Blacks captain has no problem with expectation and a history offavourites failing, he tells Marc Hinton

Saturday September 01 2007
The Guardian

Richie McCaw leans casually against a wall at the All Blacks' team hotel doing agood impression of someone without a worry in the world. If the All Blackscaptain is feeling the strain of leading his country as they attempt to end 20barren years at the World Cup he hides it well.

Kiwis rate the pressure of being skipper alongside being the country's leader asan election approaches. But even the prime minister's gig must be a doddlecompared with what McCaw faces. The flanker must deliver the World Cup to avoidthe embarrassment of having his name placed alongside Gary Whetton, SeanFitzpatrick, Taine Randell and Reuben Thorne as those who have let a nation downby falling short.

"I'm pretty relaxed," he says. "In terms of what we're going to do on the fieldI'm confident with what we've got. I guess some of the attention and stuff thatthe All Blacks will get in France, that's something we've got to get right andnot let it affect how we perform. We've got to keep our focus on doing it righton the field."

In the last two World Cups the All Blacks have stumbled unexpectedly in thesemi-finals, unable to summon Plan B when it was needed. Is he confident he hasa group capable of adjusting on its feet at this tournament?

"If you look around the team there's 15 who have been around for four years -that's a lot of experience. Hopefully we've been through these types ofsituation. The classic one was against Australia [in the Tri-Nations decider inAuckland recently won by New Zealand] - there were two trophies on line, it wasmust-win and we perhaps hadn't performed previously. We now realise we can findthose little things you've got to call on. I think we're ready."

McCaw, who was named man of the match on his debut against Ireland in 2001 atthe age of 20 and first captained the side in 2003, acknowledges his career willbe incomplete without success at the World Cup .

"It's definitely going to define me, it's going to define this team," he says."A lot of the guys have played a lot of rugby over the last four years and we'vebeen pretty successful over the four years. But what happens in the next six weeks will be how you remember what this teamis about. We're pretty proud about what we've done so far and that can't betaken away from us. But it'd be nice just to put the icing on the cake. That'swhat this World Cup is about. Once you get to the knockout stage it's three biggames you've got to win and I know we've got the ability to do that if we get itright."

This is where McCaw is at peace with his lot. He looks around him at a NewZealand team that have lost only five times in their four years under GrahamHenry, three in the last three and not once in the northern hemisphere. Therewill always be question marks until the cup is lifted, and that pressure isthere every step of the way as an All Black, but this 26-year-old veteran of 55Test matches would not swap places with anyone.

That is why he shrugs off the pressure factor in France. "What I'm trying toemphasise to the team is, instead of looking at it like that, we should look atit as what a great challenge it is. We should get excited about it, because alot of people would love to have a chance to go play in a World Cup and we'vegot that chance."

In other words, do not get too wound up by history? "You can't afford to becausethen it just becomes a big weight on your shoulders and that isn't going to helpyou do your job," he says. "Pressure's always going to be there but, as Grahamsays, having pressure's a privilege. If you haven't got it, you might as well goaway and do something else."

But McCaw is not strictly worry-free. He sees some dangerous opponents gatheringtheir forces. The New Zealanders could face Ireland in a quarter-final and that,he believes, would be a huge contest. "Then once you get to semis or finals eachteam has the ability to win. What should happen doesn't always happen . . . I think the French are starting to come right, they've got some key players backand they're going to be a pretty big force."

McCaw isn't writing off the defending champions either. He watched Englandrecently against France, largely outplayed but still "sniffing around" most ofthe game. "That's the way they are and where they did really well last WorldCup. They weren't flashy but they just hung around and took their chances.They've still got a few guys who have been there and done that and know what'srequired. They're a real threat."

McCaw has spoken often about the pain of the 22-10 semi-final defeat byAustralia in 2003 - an insipid New Zealand performance that suggested a bad caseof stage fright. He says he and his 14 fellow survivors have carried the scarsof that with them for four long years. Now is redemption time.


"We've just got to make sure we get ourselves in the best shape to be the bestteam at the tournament. It doesn't matter what you've done before. You couldargue we had some of the best talent last tournament but we just didn't performand I guess that's the big thing that has irked me for a while."

*****
Rien de nouveau : oui, on est sous pression mais ca nous derange pas bla-bla-bla...
Les photos n'ont rien a voir avec l'article --vous l'aurez bien devine!
Et puis pendant qu'on y est : ayé, j'ai enfin fait une vidéo des Richie Girls -soyez indulgents, c'est la première que je fais! Cliquez sur le lien ci après :

*****
The pictures were taken on Saturday during/after the ABs 's "football" match at the local stadium
You wanna see some of the Richie Girls, just fellow this link :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0EnZ7CEyfE

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