Thursday, July 29, 2010

All Blacks skipper reveals his reading of referees

http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/all-blacks/3969277/All-Blacks-skipper-reveals-his-reading-of-referees
By DUNCAN JOHNSTONE in Melbourne - Stuff

Richie McCaw has given a frank account of how he plays the referees as well as the opposition to maintain his mantle as the best openside flanker in test rugby.

The All Blacks skipper dominates opponents with his sheers skills and infuriates opposition coaches – most notably South African Peter de Villiers – with his tactics.

He has been labelled a cheat many times during his 85-test career but makes no apologies for his style of game.

He says he has a clear idea of how far he can push the boundaries in the most competitive area of the game at the breakdowns.

"If you go in gun shy you're not going to have an impact," McCaw told media as he prepares to tackle Australia in Melbourne this weekend.

"I think the big thing is to understand where you sit and what you're going to get away with and what you're not.

"As long as you're not putting the team under heaps of pressure you've got to still be at the point of knowing what you can get away with and what you can't and the odd thing you might get wrong."

He had a tough time in the last test against the Springboks in Wellington with many considering he may have been lucky to avoid a yellow card.

"I think I gave away four penalties or it might have been five and there were a couple of them I was disappointed with."

It was a matter of reading the referee as much as his opponents at times.

"How do I say it? What I think is right and what he (the ref) thinks is right could be different so you've got to figure it out pretty quickly.

"I always think the things I'm trying to do are the right things and if he's penalising me for some reason I think 'geez I'm not going to get away with that today' or 'that's not going to work with this ref'.

"Each ref is a little bit different. I have a fairly good understanding of where they'll sit, just through experiences."

He doesn't believe he has a privileged position as captain to exploit the nuances that come with being a No 7.

"I wouldn't have thought so. They pride themselves on making sure they call it the same way no matter who it is. There are times I get it the other way perhaps.

"I do know what they are going to do and I always have a yarn in the shed before the game as to what they've seen previously or if they have got ay concerns. Hopefully they'll tell me if they think I'm getting it all wrong."

McCaw has revelled in the new rule interpretations and been delighted at the ability of his fellow back rowers Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino to take a bit of pressure off him.

He's not just a scavenger now ... he is showing his value as a link player as well in the high-tempo game the All Blacks have played.

Undoubtedly the player of his generation, he is being likened to Sean Fitzpatrick in terms of his leadership which has certainly grown.

It's been hardened by some tough experiences – most notably the World Cup quarterfinal loss to France in Cardiff where the All Blacks fell apart under immense pressure.

There's a sense that is starting to change.

There's also a feeling that the fast game the All Blacks are playing is based around super quick ball and plenty of that is being delivered by McCaw's marvellous skills under the watchful eyes of referees.
He has South African whistleman Craig Joubert to deal with this weekend and a growing force in Australian flanker David Pocock.

It should be quite a night and one thing is for sure – McCaw as captain and flanker – will be right in the thick of it.

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