Monday, June 09, 2008

McCaw inspirational

By GRANT FOX, Sunday Star Times
Sunday, 08 June 2008

This was a tough Irish challenge the All Blacks did well to
stare down.

We were unusually vulnerable going into this test and there were undoubtedly some nervous fans after the scores were deadlocked at halftime and then the Irish nosed ahead early in the second half.

That Richie McCaw's men absorbed the pressure, adapted to the conditions and slowly squeezed the life out of the brave men in green by set piece dominance and relentless physicality should provide much confidence.

As for McCaw, what a performance!

Right from the moment he led the team out, I could see Richie's hunger. This was an inspired leader's performance, underlining once and for all that we have the best possible captain already at our helm.

They were tough conditions that were always going to dictate how this test would be played.

The first half was a real slog and, with limited preparation and lack of seasoned combinations, New Zealand did well.

The All Blacks' set pieces were impressive.

The scrum, even though prop John Afoa was lost early, was dominant and the lineout, with Rodney So'oialo proving a reliable option, delivered.

I felt we were also very effective at the breakdown, even if ref Chris White seemed to spend too much time trying to peer into the breakdown while ignoring what was going on around the fringes. Because what was happening there was a lot of offside play from Ireland.

They were tactics that could have frustrated the All Blacks and I was encouraged that they rose above them, dealt with it in their own way and forged on.

Bring on England.

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