Hamish Bidwell, The Press
Hamish Bidwell, The Press
Thursday, 09 October 2008
A jinx? Richie McCaw thinks not.
Drafting All Blacks into its ranks late in provincial campaigns has not always paid off for Canterbury. In fact, the return of the likes of McCaw has often heralded its play-off exit. Named on the bench for tomorrow night's Air New Zealand Cup quarter-final against Tasman at AMI Stadium, McCaw insists that this time is different.
"You learn, over the time, the best way to approach it. Like, this time I am really excited about being back because I've had two weeks where I didn't think about playing and got away and that's a key; there's no point being here if you are not willing to go out, put everything into it and contribute," the All Blacks skipper said.
That has not always been the case, with stepping back down to Canterbury duty being the last thing some players have needed after a draining All Blacks campaign.
"Had it been the week after the All Black thing, yeah it could've been (a bit of a chore). But, as I said, after two weeks completely away from playing and watching last week back here and doing a little bit of training with the boys, you feel excited about getting back out on the field."
One thing helping to arouse McCaw's interest this week is the opportunity to play against Brad Thorn for the first time. Friends as well as Crusaders and All Blacks team-mates, McCaw said Auckland fans were not the only ones caught out by its loss to Northland on Sunday.
Thorn, like many, assumed Auckland would win, leaving Tasman as the final team to scrape into the quarter-finals.
That honour eventually fell to Taranaki, which plays top-qualifier Wellington at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.
"We were down here (at Rugby Park) training last week and he said `I'm starting to think I might play if they (Tasman) get through'. He's going to mean a lot to that team, so it'll be good fun. (There) might be a bit of banter, it's going to be interesting. I think he thought when he was driving up to Tasman on Monday that they were playing Wellington and then he found out he's coming back to play Canterbury."
As the only loose forward on Canterbury's bench, McCaw practised in all three positions yesterday. Captain Kieran Read will again start at No.8 in place of the injured Mose Tuiali'i and had his claims for an All Black jersey endorsed by McCaw.
"He had a really good Super 14 and to take over the captaincy and carry on playing as one of the better players in the competition shows the class of the guy," McCaw said."He's certainly put his hand up if there are opportunities on this tour, but I suppose he won't be thinking too much about that. He's definitely put himself in the frame, I think."
In the pack Greg Somerville, Wyatt Crockett and Isaac Ross return to the starting 15, as do backs Tim Bateman, Casey Laulala and Paul Williams. Should Canterbury beat Tasman, it will play the winner of Sunday's quarter-final between Hawkes Bay and Waikato.