By DUNCAN JOHNSTONE, RugbyHeaven
Thursday, 31 July 2008
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw is expecting his old coach Robbie Deans to come up with something new as the battle of the coaching brains heats up for Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup rematch at Auckland's Eden Park.
With the All Blacks coaches admitting they were outfoxed by Deans in the opening match in Sydney last weekend where the Wallabies won 34-19, the pressure is on Graham Henry and his sidekicks to counter the Aussies.
But someone as canny as Deans certainly won't be resting on his laurels and McCaw, who played under Deans at the Crusaders, said one of his strengths was his ability to innovate from week to week.
It was a trait that kept the Crusaders ahead of their Super 14 rivals all those years and it's now something Deans is trying to achieve at test level.
"They will certainly tweak their game," said McCaw as he gets ready to enter the fray after sitting out the opening three Tri-Nations matches with his ankle injury."That's the way Robbie operates and he will come up with something new. But a lot of it will be fairly similar."
Deans said as much when he told RugbyHeaven after the Sydney encounter: "We will look at the detail of this one and second guess each other I guess in terms of what is involved. But just the context of being in Auckland, the All Blacks won't want to go down again. You have Richie (McCaw) re-entering the fold. It's going to be another notch up again."
Deans has already signalled a new approach from the Wallabies for Eden Park by selecting two opensides in George Smith and Phil Waugh to counter the effectiveness of McCaw. But there is sure to be more.
McCaw, who was a frustrated spectator in Sydney, said he had noticed certain Crusaders traits being introduced into the Wallabies' game by Deans although he believed at this stage his old mentor was only tweaking what was already there.
"I suppose there is a little bit," he said of a Crusaders' influence enveloping the Wallabies' tactics."They kicked a fair bit of ball which we have done a bit at the Crusaders. But they were smart about when they used it as well. Really it was like playing the Wallabies anyway. They took the opportunities they had, they were smart the way they played - it hasn't changed a lot of what they do. We were just disappointed that we lost the battle at the breakdown."
And the breakdown is an area where Deans and his forwards coach Jim Williams appear to be putting a lot of focus on. In recent times the Wallabies have often been content to wall up when the opposition appeared to have control of second phase ball.
It has been noticeable against both the Springboks and the All Blacks that they have looked to counter ruck in a New Zealand fashion and try to blow the opposition off the ball. The Wallabies managed to achieve that several times in Sydney, securing some crucial turnovers against the All Blacks.
McCaw said there was no lack of motivation to turn things around this weekend and while Deans would be dreaming up new plans, there was no lack of thought going into the All Blacks' game from the coaches and senior players.
It's a crunch match and everyone knows it.
McCaw said his players were well aware that after consecutive losses the Tri-Nations trophy was on the line at Eden Park.
A Wallabies win would end the All Blacks' three-year reign of Sanzar's premier tournament.
"Yeah and it gives them a couple of good hands on the Bleidsloe too. I think the guys are aware of that as well."
tongue lovers: this one is for you =)