By JOHN MATHESON
Sunday, 4 November 2007
Robbie Deans the All Blacks coach-in-waiting has launched a stirring defence of skipper Richie McCaw.
McCaw has been heavily criticised for a lack a leadership in the second half of the Cardiff calamity when the All Blacks crashed out of the World Cup with a shock loss to France.
"Everyone knows Richie and his qualities," Deans said.
"People have criticised him and all I will say about that is `watch this space'.
"Richie will be a lot better for the experience he has been through and he is not a bloke who will lie down as a result of that experience.
"He'll grow from it. And (the Crusaders and All Blacks) will benefit from that growth."
Sunday News expects McCaw to be named as Deans' Crusaders captain.
There is however a school of thought in Christchurch that the job could be given to Reuben Thorne to take the pressure off McCaw who is odds-on to skipper the All Blacks next season regardless of who is coach.
"I've made the decision around captaincy but I won't be saying anything about that publicly until I have communicated that decision to the team."
Deans, a four-time Super rugby winner, defended his decision to acquire the 32-year-old Brad Thorn.
To make room for the 2003 All Black in the Crusaders squad, locks Kevin O'Neill was transferred to Waikato while Isaac Ross was farmed out to the Highlanders.
"There were consequences for a couple of blokes but the reality is that while they may not feel this way now I'm sure they'll look back at the experience they are about to have with the Chiefs and the Highlanders as the best thing that could have happened to them at this stage of their career."
Last year the Crusaders beaten semifinalists had a soft centre in their forward back. Thorne will add grunt and intensity to their d-line.
"He is just a good man to have around the group," said Deans. "He has a great ethic. And there's no doubt that he'll stiffen up the game line for us."
While the critics haven't figured it out yet, Thorn's value will increase if Sanzar decide to use rugby's new laws in the Super 14.
Having a more resilient defensive line will be important with more space between the sides and on attack there will be more carry options for the former Brisbane Bronco.
That Deans has foreseen that will surprise no one.
It's the reason, as reported by Sunday News two weeks ago, the Australian Rugby Union will hold off naming its new coach until Deans' All Blacks fate has been determined.