NZPA - (3/12/2009)
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw says the high of the demolition of France and a relaxed buildup has helped him brace his weary body for one final rugby match here at Twickenham.
Rather than rest alongside fellow frontliners Dan Carter, Mils Muliaina, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Kieran Read and Tony Woodcock, the newly-crowned International Rugby Board (IRB) player of the year will skipper the All Blacks against the Barbarians.
McCaw admitted he was "over rugby" in 2009, more mentally than physically, but said the buzz of their Marseille mayhem last weekend helped keep him going.
"I had a fair idea for a while I'd be playing. We were always going to give other guys a crack, but being captain of the team I'm more than happy to help out," McCaw said."All the guys had a lot of fun last week and you just can't carry on like last week, you've got to get in the game, but if it was as much fun as that it'd be well worth it."
After a night of celebrations in Marseille, McCaw and several teammates visited the adidas factory in Germany then had two quiet days before their first training at a pristine Harrow School.
While his early-season injury meant McCaw played 10 of the All Blacks' 14 tests this year, the mental strain of skippering the side and the rigours of the six weeks on their unbeaten tour was starting to show.
"I'm ready for a break to be honest. Body-wise I'm really good. It's more I've just had enough of rugby for another year, not to much the games but the training and stuff that goes with it.
"That's good about this week, it's not the intensity of a test match so it makes it a little bit easier to get ready, a bit more relaxed."
But while the buildup might be low-key, McCaw knows the Twickenham match will be anything but.
He played for the Barbarians against the Wallabies at Wembley a year ago as they gave the tourists a fright before losing 18-11.
A formidable Barbarians loose trio of Wallabies Rocky Elsom, George Smith and Springbok Schalk Burger will ensure no easy ride for McCaw and fellow loosies Liam Messam and Rodney So'oialo.
"Last year's game was one of the most physical I played on the tour so it's not easy either. The Barbarians boys got stuck into the Wallabies early on. It was close."
Still, the All Blacks, with just McCaw and fullback Cory Jane back from the France test, will try to throw the ball around.
Their ability to do that will depend on gaining the solid forward platform they were able to set in Marseille, and McCaw's expertise at the breakdown.
He hailed yesterday's International Rugby Board (IRB) decision to formalise the rule giving the first player to the breakdown the advantage.He had no problem with the current laws around the crucial battle for possession at the tackle, but said his sympathy lay with referees.
"It's not that complicated, the fact it all happens so quick just makes it tough for the ref."
The only change McCaw would make was for refs to be tougher on players who leaned on the tackler to make it appear as if they were playing the ball on their feet.
"If there's any doubt then you're not on your feet. It might mean more penalties but it will mean more accuracy. There's guys that lie on the player and look like they're on their feet... it's got to be a genuine attempt to lift the ball on their feet, that would help a bit."