James Mortimer - (27/09/2010)
Richie McCaw, who missed the early rounds of this year's Investec Super rugby season, may miss the beginning of the expanded 2011 competition, with Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder confirming that he would carefully manage his prized flanker.
Last year McCaw exercised what was regarded as "sabbatical" clause, taking the first three weeks of the competition off, however he did return for pre-season training.
Crusaders assistant coach Daryl Gibson had confirmed the openside's soft entry in the the competition.
"Richie's obviously taking (took) a sabbatical in that period - normally when All Blacks take sabbaticals it can be up to six months, so we're fortunate Richie's decided that he's only taking three weeks off. It's pretty good and a mark of the man, really."
Originally not expected back until round four of the competition (against the Blues in Christchurch), McCaw was named on the bench for their round three encounter with the Sharks.
When the Crusaders suffered arguably the upset of the tournament and lost to the Queensland Reds - then an unknown quantitiy - by a stunning 41-20, the red and blacks ushered back their heaviest form of artillery.
For the record the Crusaders beat the Natal based outfit 35-6 at home.The red and blacks then would not lose a game (notwithstanding a 26-26 draw with the Hurricanes in round eight) until again suffering an upset with a 24-16 loss to the Force in round eleven.
McCaw would likely consult with the All Blacks coaches and the Crusaders, and there is every possibility that one of the hardest working players in world rugby will slowly ease his way into 2011, a massive year with the expanded competition and of course the World Cup.
Blackadder, speaking to the NZ Herald, said that a similar approach would be ideal.
"We have got to be really careful the way we manage Richie," says Blackadder to the NZ Herald."I thought he was our best player this season by a mile. He was training with us but he didn't play in the first two games and that really helped him. The way he plays he not only puts himself out there physically, he also has the mental pressure of being All Black captain."