Fri, 28 Nov 2008 8:42a.m.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw admitted he didn't know much about his opposing open-side flanker ahead of the season finale against England - though Michael Lipman has vivid memories of their first rugby encounter.
The Bath co-captain was playing for Australia's under-19 team back in 1999 when the young Wallabies secured a 20-16 victory - and featured in a back row including McCaw's long-time rival George Smith and former No 8 David Lyons.
McCaw was supported by Jerry Collins at the breakdown while Mils Muliaina and Aaron Mauger were among the backs. The New Zealand under-19 first five-eighth that day was Riki Flutey, who also finds himself playing for England at Twickenham on Saturday (0330 Sunday NZT).
Lipman also made his test debut against the All Blacks at Eden Park four years ago but since then has been used sparingly as the presently injured Lewis Moody initially monopolised the English No 7 jersey.
McCaw had been expecting to go to ground with Tom Rees, of London Wasps, and was taken aback to see Lipman on the team sheet.
"I'm surprised, Tom's a damn good player," he said of an adversary that played both tests on England's tour of New Zealand in June. "All their loose forwards played pretty well together, the challenge we had down home was pretty physical."
Rees was arguably England's best player during their record 42-6 loss to South African last weekend but team manager Martin Johnson has decided an All Blacks side on a Grand Slam quest could be a game to far for Rees, who has been pitted against Tongan captain Nili Latu (Pacific Islanders), Australian Smith and the Springboks Schalk Burger in consecutive weekends. He is, however, on the bench.
Lipman was a relative mystery to McCaw who had no recollection of the under-19 match:
" I don't remember back that far, I don't remember too much about them."
The 28-year-old hopes to leave a greater impression on the All Blacks captain when he earns his 10th cap, thanks to a promotion he had not been expecting. I think Tom has been playing very well over the last three weeks and I don't usually say that about a guy who plays in the same position," he said. "I spoke to him after the team was named, but I have to recognise that this gives me an opportunity."
Lipman was upset not to be given a chance during England's 2-0 series loss six months ago in Auckland and Christchurch, given he had started four tests in this year's Six Nations.
"I'm looking to make things right now and it will be a great challenge against Richie, one I'm looking forward to," Lipman told The Times newspaper. "When you play New Zealand it's tough, from the first minute to the 80th, you have to come out and play them at their own game. You can't be intimidated by the black jersey. If you set the tempo, create your own opportunities, set the standard, you're in with a chance."
Lipman's leadership experience is also seen as an asset as under-fire lock Steve Borthwick struggles with the captaincy role.
Borthwick has been criticised in wake of the defeat to South Africa and Lipman was eager to lend his voice to the on-field decision makers.
"Dealing with things on the pitch is an issue," he said. "You need to fix things straight away and I think we were a bit quiet out there, we let things happen. Steve may have been out there by himself. You need voices, you need people to direct, work out what's going wrong and put them right on the spot."