Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Richie revved up to rip into defining tour
By DUNCAN JOHNSTONE in Hong Kong, RugbyHeaven
Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Richie McCaw says he's shaken off some rust with Canterbury and now he is out to recapture his imperial Tri-Nations form for a tour that the All Blacks skipper believes will define his season.

McCaw leads the All Blacks out against the Wallabies here on Saturday night, determined to finish the elongated Bledisloe Cup series in style so that his side can then concentrate on a Grand Slam attempt.

And Captain Fantastic McCaw is up for the challenge, expressing satisfaction with his own game as the All Blacks face five tests on consecutive weekends.

McCaw got in two and a bit matches for Canterbury and reckons he's all the better for it.
"I was just happy to get that game under my belt and get a win," he said of last week's Air New Zealand Cup final against Wellington."Going into a test match I'm pleased I've had some rugby now. I don't have to worry about that side of things; I can just focus on doing it right for a test match that's going to be a step up from what we have had the last couple of weeks. Hopefully I'm ready for it."

Once McCaw came back from the ankle injury during the Iveco Series he sparked the All Blacks to their Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup double, recapturing the form he had displayed for the Crusaders.

His aim is to get that same consistency of performance he believes is so crucial at this level. McCaw sets his standards higher than anyone and clearly wants to be the best week-in, week-out. When he plays well, the All Balcks play well. Sometimes it can be as simple as that because he is in such a crucial position. That won't change against the Wallabies where his old rival George Smith will be thrown up against him again.

"I have been pretty happy. I've been reasonably consistent, especially the later half of the Super 14 and during the tests," said McCaw."The thing I try to do is make sure I don't have a good one and then a bad one - I try to keep my performances consistent. You're always aiming to improve. The next six weeks ... if I can look back on the year and I can do the same that I did in the middle of the year then perhaps it has been a good year. If it goes the other way you are remembered by that."

As superhuman as he seems, McCaw is likely to get a rest at some stage on this tour. On the back of a quarter-final sub's role and a full semifinal and final for Canterbury, it would be too much to ask of him to front the Wallabies, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England on consecutive Saturdays.

Not that he was shirking that scenario, when asked by RugbyHeaven.
"If I get told I'll give it a crack. I think it's a generalisation to say that no one can - that you can only play a certain number of tests. But I think you have to have an open mind ... that maybe if you can't you can use the other guys. Graham (Henry) has always said that anything more than three (tests in a row) then you have to really keep an eye on guys to put the right person out on the field. I guess with this tour after each week we will see where everyone is at injury-wise and how they are feeling. That's the main thing to do."

The most likely scenario appears to be McCaw being rested against Scotland and then returning to lead the charge for the final three tests. He certainly gave his new specialist openside backup Scott Waldrom his vote of confidence.

"I was involved with Scott at the Crusaders two or three years ago and I know him reasonably well. I've been impressed with what he has done this year. He's a hell of a good man and he's come in and fitted in pretty well. I'm sure he will be given a chance at some stage on the tour. I guess it's up to him to take that. Knowing the sort if guy he is and the sort of form he has shown, especially in the Air New Zealand Cup, then he will be good I think."

IAIN McGREGOR / Fairfax Media
ON TOP OF HIS GAME: All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw is reasonably comfortable where his play is at as he leads his side into the start of their six-match tour in Hong Kong

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