Sunday, August 03, 2008

Captain is lucky charm

Jim Kayes at Eden Park
Sunday, 03 August 2008

The All Blacks' lucky charm has weaved his magic again, skipper Richie McCaw's return coinciding with a 29-point thumping of the Wallabies at Eden Park in Auckland last night.

The 39-10 win continued an astonishing record for McCaw that's seen him on the winning side in 56 of his 63 tests. Of the 73 All Blacks who have played more than 25 tests, McCaw is the most victorious, winning 88.8% of the time. He was out injured when the All Blacks lost to Australia last week and to the Springboks in Dunedin.

His return last night was even more spectacular given how long he has been sidelined. Mere mortals might fade in the final quarter of a test when they have been out for six weeks but McCaw seemed to get better as the test unfolded.

"The game wasn't as quick as it might have been," McCaw modestly suggested. "It was a wee bit stop-start and when you're going forward it makes it easier. But with 10 minutes to go I didn't have a lot of gas left."

While there were other heroes,notably prop Tony Woodcock and midfielder Ma'a Nonu who crossed for two tries each, McCaw's impact was considerable. The All Blacks were given a hiding at the breakdown in Sydney but McCaw effectively slowed the Wallabies' ball down last night and was a key figure on defence. His cool head ensured none of last week's madcap rugby was repeated. Coach Graham Henry said McCaw's influence as a player and a leader had been critical to the 44-point turn around from Sydney, an accolade the man himself was keen to play down.

"Everyone in the 15 out there and the guys that came on all did their part and made it pretty easy for me. When you come back from not having played for a while it would be easy to try and do everything. I just wanted to make sure I did my job first and foremost."

McCaw, who was a frustrated spectator in Sydney, said the reversal hadn't surprised him.

"I was hoping it would happenbecause it wasn't a nice feeling last week when we knew we had been out-muscled and had a performance we weren't very happy with at all. I was hoping we'd do what we needed to do and the pleasing thing was once we got ahead we didn't let them back into the game. The Wallabies are renowned for that. They hang in there and even though you are on top the score can be close. That's the great thing we kept the hammer on them."

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