Wednesday June 02, 2010
By tvnz.co.nz's rugby reporter Chris Matthews
Source: ONE Sport
When Richie McCaw was plucked from relative obscurity all the way back in 2001 to go on the All Blacks' end of year tour, few would have guessed that nearly 10 years later he would be on the verge of breaking all kinds of national Test appearance records.
For one, he plays in the most gruelling of rugby positions. Before McCaw, the national record for a number seven was just 55 Tests, played by the great Michael Jones.
But more significantly, as McCaw has evolved into the world's premier openside flanker, it has become evident that he throws his body around with little regard for his own personal wellbeing.
Sure, as a result McCaw has had the odd injury - namely head knocks - but now with the 2010 All Blacks season about to kick-off, McCaw is poised on 80 Test caps, 43 of which he has captained.
Sean Fitzpatrick currently leads both of these categories with 91 Tests caps and 51 as captain, however, injury permitting, McCaw should supersede both of these totals during the end of year tour.
Whether he gets past the 91 Test total before team-mate Mils Muliana, who is currently sitting on 82 Test caps, is trivial to McCaw.
He stands by his mantra that every Test is one to treasure.
"When you become an All Black, it's not good enough just to be there, you've got to come in and play like an All Black," McCaw told ONE News.
It's a message that new boys Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg, Benson Stanley and Victor Vito are sure to hear over the next two weeks from McCaw and senior All Blacks, as they prepare for the first Test assignment against Ireland.
Indeed, the Test against an Emerald Green squad that McCaw describes as "pretty sharp and pretty settled" is one he is wary of.
Although he wasn't involved in last year's first up defeat to France in Dunedin, he says the short preparation time before the first June international makes things difficult, especially for the new squad members.
"We had new fellas in there that hadn't played Test rugby (and) we expected them to be up to speed straight away, rather than actually making sure they were," McCaw says.
This time around, according to McCaw, the All Blacks plan to do things differently.
"I think the big thing is that you can't get everything sorted.
"Senior players over the Super 14 have already had a couple of sessions with the coaches just to make sure that we're on the same page and get a few things in place.
"I think the first week especially is about getting your basic systems right so come 10 days time you're ready to play a Test match.
"As the three weeks go on you build on that and you make sure you get the basics right, your lineout right, your defensive systems right, so that you can play rugby.
"Because it is quite simple and as you go on it's adding those little things and that's the key - if you try do it all at once you come unstuck."
So, it's back to basics for the 26-man squad tomorrow as their first training of 2010 gets underway in Waitakere.