Yahoo!Xtra Sport / Neil Reid - November 13, 2008, 11:34 am
Irish loosie David Wallace has viewed a virtual mountain of video tapes in his bid to negate Richie McCaw in Sunday's test in Dublin. The clash at Croke Park will be the fifth time Wallace has come up against one of world rugby's most instrumental players, and the world's best openside flanker. Wallace, a member of the 2007-08 Heineken Cup-winning Munster side, said McCaw was worthy of all the acclaim that is directed his way.
But even so, he was doing all he could to try and find some chinks in his impressive armour.
"As the game has evolved, so have McCaw's techniques. You can see him doing different things now that he didn't do before," Wallace said."You have to be on your toes to counteract everything he does. As an openside, he's the best in the world. It's said he sometimes plays from an offside position, but I don't agree with that. He just has little tricks up his sleeve, things that you might not even see unless you watch them several times over on the video. As players we all try to learn from each other. Hopefully, he'll be looking at us to learn a few things as well."
Ireland and the All Blacks have met 22 times previously; the All Blacks have won 21 times, while the sides have drawn once. The pack is one of the real strengths of the Irish side confirmed by coach Declan Kidney for Sunday's clash. And much is expected of its loose forward trio, which also features No 8 James Heaslip and blindside flanker Alan Quinlan, if Ireland is to at least gain some parity at the breakdown.
Wallace said while McCaw was the world leader at No 7 play, opposing him was a challenge he always looked forward too.
"It's great when you come up against someone like McCaw because it puts you on full alert. You're not going to be complacent," he said."You just have to make sure you're dominant at the breakdown. Any chink in our armour will be exploited and if we're not switched on, they will cause problems. Richie has such a wide range of talents and skills. Most things he does very well but he's prolific at robbing the ball or slowing it down. He's also brilliant at working off the backs and is a superb link man. His speed to the breakdown is great and he has superb technique when he gets there."
Echoing the thoughts of Kidney and veteran Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, Wallace said the history between the two sides would count for nothing on Sunday morning (New Zealand time). The test will be played at Croke Park, with the 82,000-capacity sporting arena already a sell-out. That home support will undoubtedly lift the Irish spirits when the pressure is exerted on them on game-day.
"The last few times we've been down to New Zealand we've got close," Wallace said."Croke Park will be a great place to play and to try and get our first win, but we're under no illusions as to how hard it will be. We've beaten Australia and South Africa over the last few years but New Zealand have managed to escape us. It does feel like we're edging closer to them bit by bit but you have to be careful not to become complacent. They played us here a few years ago and put up a big score. That brings home the reality of how good they are. We still need that fear to make us play that little bit better."