Friday, May 08, 2009

Fit McCaw delights coaches

Graham Henry's lips must have uttered a sigh of relief as he watched Richie McCaw motor around Christchurch's Rugby Park yesterday.

McCaw's withdrawal from last weekend's Super 14 match against the Lions because of concussion again heightened fears the world's best openside flanker and All Blacks captain was operating on short time on the rugby field.

Yesterday, though, McCaw maintained he was fit for action despite two concussion scares this season and was adamant he would not play if it meant jeopardising his health.

That was just what Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder wanted to hear ahead of the match against the Queensland Reds in Christchurch tomorrow night and although McCaw has been bracketed with Jonathan Poff pending the results of follow-up tests today, he is expected to lead the side at AMI Stadium.

Chalk up a similar reaction from All Blacks coach Henry, too.

He attended training yesterday with assistants Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith and watching the fit-again McCaw in action would have created an internal glow bright enough to ward off the southerly wind's chill.

McCaw suffered a head knock against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on April 26 and although his health improved in the buildup to the Lions match in Johannesburg, he said the break also gave him time to let a deep cut above his eye heal.

The symptoms, he said, were not serious and he believed they were not signalling an ongoing problem with concussion.

"Everything I have been told and all the research is that you can recover fully...

"The knocks I have had have been pretty significant and I have recovered pretty quick, which is what you would expect.

"As long as that has happened I am pretty confident that I would be good to go."

Concussion usually results in players suffering headaches or "cloudiness" and McCaw, who has learned over the years how to read the symptoms after repeated head knocks, said it was "hard to explain" how the latest injury had affected him.

"All I can say is you just know you are not quite 100 per cent.

"It didn't help last week that I had a deep gash, so I had a pretty sore eye with it.

"It all adds up to not feeling quite right. By no means is it real bad, it's just not 100 (per cent)."

His return should be a massive boost to the Crusaders as they again look for a bonus-point win over the Reds to keep their chances of defending their Super 14 crown alive.

His replacement, Poff, was reliable in defence against the Lions, but McCaw offers much more in the fight for turnovers and his experience will count for plenty.

McCaw has rarely appeared to be concerned about self-preservation on the field and said he will not let that cloud his performances in the future, either.

"You can't look at what might happen down the track, because you don't know what's down the track and that's the way I look at it. As long as I feel like I can do the job right on the Saturday, then I will play. If I can't, then I won't."

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