NZPA - (9/06/2010)
Forget about referee Wayne Barnes, and don't bank on a free-flowing spectacle in the All Blacks' test rugby season opener against Ireland, captain Richie McCaw says.
Barnes' return to New Zealand to control Saturday's test here will ensure some of the spotlight falls on the Englishman who bore the brunt of the country's fury for 'that forward pass' decision in the All Blacks' 2007 World Cup quarterfinal loss to France.
He slipped into the country last week and controlled a Wellington club game on Saturday, receiving a pass mark from knowledgeable observers as he got up to speed on the new breakdown and scrum engagement law interpretations.
While he pushes the boundaries with refs on the field, McCaw, ever the off-field diplomat, was at pains to warn his teammates and all New Zealand rugby fans to "get over" Barnes circa 2007.
"You've got to move on from things like that; he's still reffing and he's highly rated in the northern hemisphere. To me it's not an issue at all," McCaw said.
"He'll be feeling his way too but it's up to us to adjust as best we can as quick as possible."If you start focusing on those sort of things we're not worrying about what we're doing. If we get things right it shouldn't be an issue as well, that's always the way."
McCaw said Barnes would have done his homework by watching the Super 14, where the new interpretations got an airing, and it was up to the All Blacks to adjust to his rulings quickly.
The Brian O'Driscoll-captained Ireland, who remain in Auckland until late tomorrow, will also need to adjust after playing under the old rules in the Six Nations.
The All Blacks were given today off, as is tradition, after two intense days on a chilly training paddock.
Their focus was on defence and getting the set pieces right as they back themselves to take on the Irish pack and nullify their impressive loose forwards Jamie Heaslip and David Wallace, and make life tough for pivot Ronan O'Gara and gifted attacker O'Driscoll.Despite a host of attacking threats including debut fullback Israel Dagg and returning winger Joe Rokocoko, McCaw admitted it would be safety first.
"We talk about risk and reward. We've got to allow these guys to play because that's what got them here. That's what they're good at. But something that's going to put you under pressure, you've got to weigh that up.
"The young fellas have got to learn that pretty quick."
McCaw said while Super 14 saw plenty of tryfests, they were on dry grounds and the frustration of playing in New Zealand in winter would kick in, just over a year out from the World Cup here.
"That's the reality, playing in New Zealand in the middle of winter it's usually a wet ball. We want our skills to be good enough so we can play some rugby in it. Sometimes things you can get away with with a dry ball you mightn't so easily if it's damp."
McCaw, who joins 81-test veteran Justin Marshall as the third-most capped All Black, one behind the injured Mils Muliaina, said it felt like the side had more time to prepare this season.
They assembled last Thursday in Auckland and felt they had plenty of time to be ready and hit the ground running in the first of three June tests.