Thursday, October 04, 2007

McCaw reaches twin landmarks (

Richie McCaw and Graham Henry -
Richie McCaw will reach two notable landmarks when he leads the All Blacks into their World Cup quarterfinal against France on Sunday morning (NZ time).

McCaw's 59th Test will see him move ahead of former No 8 Zinzan Brooke to be the most capped loose forward in New Zealand history.

The world class flanker will also captain his country for a 23rd Test, lifting him level with current teammate and long-time Canterbury comrade, Reuben Thorne, in third place on the all-time list.

That are just above two other captains of the professional age -- Tana Umaga (22 tests) and Taine Randell (21) but well behind New Zealand's two most recognised skippers, Sean Fitzpatrick (51) and Wilson Whineray (30).

McCaw attributed his period of success -- the All Blacks have won 20 and lost just two of the Tests under him -- to a support network that was conspicuous by its absence when Thorne led the failed Cup campaign four years ago.

"In 2003 a lot of guys were new to the team really and perhaps didn't offer as much in terms of leadership. The captain and the coach did a lot of it and the rest perhaps didn't help as we should have," McCaw said.

"Now we've got heaps of guys who have been around for a long time. They'll put up their hands and see how we can make things better."

McCaw faces an important leadership challenge this week, liaising on a workable level with English referee Wayne Barnes, who at 28 is younger than a third of the New Zealand team.

Age wasn't an issue if Barnes could back up his reputation with performance, McCaw added, planning to approach the youngster with the same manner he would use for a veteran whistler.

Barnes controlled New Zealand's opening 76-14 defeat of Italy at Marseille a month ago but McCaw ventured that this weekend's Test would be a world apart from that romp.

"He has a pretty calm sort of manner (but) I guess the game sort of allowed that to happen," McCaw said.

"I've been pretty impressed with how he's gone over the tournament.

"He's been given this game so he's obviously done a reasonable job."

Barnes' biggest of his four pool matches was the South Africa-Tonga clash in Lens, where the Tongans threatened a giant upset in a flowing encounter.

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