Monday, July 06, 2009

Richie hasn't skipped a beat
By TAINE RANDELL - Sunday News

Don't worry about Richie McCaw not being ready to make a huge impact from the beginning of the Tri-Nations.

Richie has shown that it doesn't matter how long he's had off, he's so fit and good that he'll come back and play as though he hasn't missed a beat.

The All Blacks are a different team when he's playing not just because of the effect he has on our guys but also how he's regarded by overseas teams.

There is a certain fear factor about him. Not because he's so brutish but because he's so good.

You can see how much he cares playing for the All Blacks. For him to see them lose a game and not performing well in another, he would be so frustrated.

Sure the All Blacks are under pressure but he's got such a good track record playing for the All Blacks that I don't think he'll be feeling the pressure as much as people would expect him to.

He has such a good record that he'd be confident that when he plays, they win.

The main concern out of the first three All Blacks tests was the lack of control in the No 10.

The Springboks have Morne Steyn and Ruan Pienaar, Australia have Matt Giteau, who is the best in the world.

First-five is the All Blacks' real weakness at the moment and nothing in the first three tests from either Luke McAlister or Stephen Donald did anything to indicate that we won't be under the cosh there.

So maybe we should play McAlister at 12 and Donald at 10.

Donald's performances at the Chiefs really stepped up when he had Callum Bruce outside him, someone in an Aaron Mauger-type role who can take a bit of pressure off him and gives the team more kicking options.

I know this would be massively harsh on Ma'a Nonu but it could well be that he'd play 13 because he's the best midfielder we've got, although I'm not sure how well he'd combine defensively with McAlister.

But a decision the selectors have to make is whether to pick a side which has the best players in it, or the players which make up the best team.

For me, given that the No10 position is so crucial and we've been so lacking there, getting that sorted out is crucial and the best way to do that is having a Donald/McAlister combination when Donald is back from his hamstring injury.

As for having Rodney So'oialo back, I don't know whether he should be the main No8.

I was surprised and impressed with how Kieran Read went at No8. He does run well with the ball, he's skilful and has a huge work rate like So'oialo. But an advantage he has over So'oialo is that he's a bit bigger and plays a bit tighter and that's something we may need in the Tri Nations.

Given how the rules are now, we're going to come up against a Springboks team that are going to maul and we need to be able to maul and ruck more efficiently. So having someone that naturally plays tighter would suit us.

Ad Feedback Also, when Kieran Read plays, the All Blacks have a very tall and effective lineout. This has been the best lineout we've had for a number of years.

Going into these tests, if we can really put pressure on the opposition's ball it will be something we haven't done in the Tri Nations for a long while.

With Read, Isaac Ross and Jerome Kaino in the team, it brings a new dynamic to the All Blacks' game.

As for Liam Messam, it's pretty harsh to drop him entirely on his efforts in Dunedin.

He didn't do himself too many favours in that test against France but the fact is he was being played out of position and was in a poorly selected back row.

So it was no surprise that he didn't play as well as he did in the Super 14.

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