Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rugby: Q&A - Richie McCaw

Rugby: Q&A - Richie McCaw
5:00AM Friday September 07, 2007

Are you ready for the World Cup?
Yep, definitely. All we have done this year has been geared towards it and I feel there is not a lot more we can do to be honest. We are as ready as we are going to be, bloody excited about it. The last few weeks have been all about getting fresh, getting over the Tri-Nations and now we are sick of that and just can't wait to play, which is the way it should be.

Is there anything you or the team have done that is very different from the 2003 tournament?
Quite a few things. Last time we had five or six camps but we allowed guys to have time at home just to freshen and go again because a lot of what we have done over the past few years is what we are going to use.
If you go hammering it and hammering it, it can be easy to lose your edge. Last time we also put a big emphasis on winning the Bledisloe back and Tri-Nations and then put our focus on the World Cup, whereas this time the World Cup has been there for a long time.

You have been captain for two years, has that weighed on you or has it changed your rugby philosophy?
I think I still play for the reasons I always have and that is because I love playing for the All Blacks. Having the responsibility of captain - I think in my first year it felt like I needed to do too much and towards the end of the year I was pretty knackered. I felt I did it all pretty well but it was a battle to the end. But this year I have had a lot of help from senior players and I have tried to make sure a lot of guys contribute, which they do. I get my enjoyment from seeing what we do [to] help the guys performing at the weekend, the satisfaction of knowing that what we have done during the week has really helped the team. If you keep doing that you are going to keep enjoying what you are doing.
Are you edgy because of your limited game time?
Not at all because I played a lot of rugby through the middle of the year and after that I wanted a break, I needed one. Some guys played more rugby so everyone was catered for. The pool games are a chance to build our momentum and match fitness so I am not too worried. When you look at last year when we went on the tour to Europe, a lot of us had not played that much rugby and we were fresh and excited about going and that counts for a lot. I think we are in a pretty good space really.

Who do you expect to be the All Blacks' toughest opponents?
The toughest one is the one you underestimate, when you don't prepare as well as you could. For example, we could play Ireland, Argentina or France in a quarter-final and that would be a bloody tough game and you have to do that dead right. If you don't, it can be very difficult and I don't want to contemplate not doing it well. All the knockout games will be tough but we also have to make sure we achieve what we need to out of all our pool games. We got ourselves really excited for the quarter-final in 2003 [against South Africa] and then didn't the next week so if we are to win this we have to do it for three weeks.

Who will be your toughest personal opponent?
I think that would have to be Schalk Burger and George Smith because we all know how each other plays, the Springboks, Wallabies and us have similar styles. You can come up against another tough team but never feel like you have had a tough match against your opposite. But with Burger and Smith you know where they are going to be and how hard they play near the ball.

Do you expect to have to modify your style because of the referees?
I've got to play what the referee allows and I don't expect that to be different from what we have experienced so far this year. I'm sure the refs, under instructions from Paddy O'Brien and the IRB, have been told to rule how they are going to at the World Cup. I've had no trouble this year in the internationals. But I have always said we need to adapt as we go, and as long as I continue to do that I should get along fine.

Do you detect the media campaigns are mounting against the All Blacks?
I think there is a little bit there but it is just because we are obviously the favourites going into it. You have got to expect that, people want to knock you off and will try and find any weakness they can. I think as long as we keep our focus and don't let that stuff worry us we should be fine. If anything it should make us stronger. We have talked about it. All Blacks going to a World Cup is a team which hasn't lost too many times recently so everyone wants to knock you off.

Graham Henry has spoken about players not being able to cope with three successive tests. How does that equate with the need to win three playoff matches to win the World Cup?
I know that has been said and it is tough to front up. But the key is that if someone is shot after two games we switch him or we use the reserve bench more during matches. We changed entire teams some weeks and as long as we keep on top of injuries and fatigue we can get through. You can say it is really hard to play three in a row but the other teams have to do the same.

Who do you look to for advice and what was the best piece you were given?
In the team I tend to talk a lot with Sir Brian Lochore about rugby and leadership but the piece of advice I use is something Todd Blackadder told me when I first made the All Blacks. He said it doesn't mean you have to change at all, you are still the same person and remember that. I try to live by that when you are getting told how good you are or how poorly you are playing. The other one someone said to me when I made the team was, "Now you are an All Black that is not good enough, make sure you are a good All Black." That may never happen but if you keep aspiring to that you will keep your focus.

Have you got a lot of mates outside rugby?
Yes I have. I made a real effort especially when I first started playing professional rugby. It would be easy when you have a lot of mates you play rugby with but when that's gone, they are probably not the same sort of mates you would hang out with, the sort of guys you went to school with. So I have got a good group of varsity mates I keep in contact with.

Are you superstitious?
Not really, no. I try and stay away from that stuff.

Have you ever woken in the middle of the night recently worrying about the World Cup?
No I haven't, and I would be worried if I did.

Have you ever thought what it would be like to make a winning speech?
Not a winning speech but I have thought about what it would be like to hold the cup up, and whenever I think about that I wonder how do I do that. The answer is that if I do my bit for the team and we perform to our best then there is no reason why that can't happen. Any time my thoughts go that far, which is natural to do, I tell myself it is all about doing the hard work to get there but that is the prize for doing it.
Apart from gliding, do you have other sports interests?
I love any sports really. I play a bit of golf and used to play cricket at school. I just love anything which is competitive.

What are your thoughts on wags at the World Cup?
A It is bloody important to get it right to be honest. There are guys with kids and families and as long as they are happy, the guys are happy. If you have got problems at home then you are never going to function that well at rugby. Guys need their girls around, that is what gives them the balance. But others find it too much of a tie to give them enough time and don't do either justice. It is personal preference but this team has tried to include partners in everything we do. If the players want their women there they can be, if they don't they won't be. I find it is better for me to say that is the time I have away and I am better dealing with it by myself.

Do you speak French, what is your command of that language?
Not good, I never studied it at school. I have tried to pick up a little bit and got a few lessons this year but I am not too sharp. We have a lot of time in France though so who knows.

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