Sunday, December 07, 2008

McCaw backs Henry for cup

By JIM KAYES, The Dominion Post
Wednesday, 03 December 2008

Richie McCaw wants Graham Henry to coach the All Blacks at the 2011 World Cup and stick with the new practice of playing the top 15.

Henry and his two assistants, Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen, are off contract at the end of next year, but are expected to be offered an extension through to the World Cup.

McCaw, the All Blacks' skipper, hoped that would happen. "What they have done this year, under scrutiny, and to bounce back from the disappointments of last year just speaks volumes for them. They work outstandingly together so I can't see why they shouldn't stay on."
McCaw said the coaches had the players' support.

"There's a belief in what we're doing. It would be easy to believe we got it all wrong over one game last year, but we've done a lot of good things over the last four years.We had to make sure we kept those things. It would be easy to say we got it all wrong but we didn't."

Yet McCaw admitted some things had been "tweaked", including the scrapping of rotation in favour of the top 15 for the big tests. The change was, in a large part, forced on the coaches as about half of last year's World Cup squad shifted overseas after the tournament in France.

It left only a core of experienced players and they had largely kept to the same playing 22 in the four tough tests during the tour to Hong Kong, Ireland and Britain. It paid dividends as the All Blacks beat Australia at Hong Kong Stadium and defeated Ireland, Wales and England. The second stringers were rolled out against Scotland and got to play Munster in the midweek match.

McCaw defended the rotation policy as it was needed to build depth and experience, but he was also a fan of having a regular top side.

"There was a place for (rotation) because in 2004 we didn't have a lot of experience and depth. Now we've got six or seven guys who have played well over 50 tests and that's come from giving guys games through that time. But we haven't had as many experienced players this tour as we've had before so they've had to play more and that's been good."

Henry had doubted the players would survive playing in five consecutive tests and admitted after the 32-6 win against England last Sunday that he was surprised by how well they had coped. Winning the World Cup would be similar as the All Blacks are pooled with France and would need to win three big play-off tests to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.

McCaw, who played in all five tests on tour and started four of them, said juggling a player's workload was "a balancing act"

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