Sunday Sep 26, 2010
By Gregor Paul
A formal contract extension offer probably won't come until December but Richie McCaw will use his time off now to decide whether to delay his entry into Super rugby.
The All Black skipper might miss the first couple of Super rugby games next year. McCaw did that this year and both he and Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder believe the delayed start was crucial to the 29-year-old producing, arguably, the best rugby of his career.
McCaw returned to training in late January with the other Crusaders' All Blacks, but was off limits for selection until round three. Blackadder says repeating that schedule in 2011 is something he would be keen to explore and hopes to discuss with McCaw soon.
"We have got to be really careful the way we manage Richie," says Blackadder. "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."
As a former All Black captain, Blackadder knows the stress and fatigue associated with the responsibility.
But, as was the case this year, once McCaw is available for selection he'll play a significant number of games.
"The players had no sense of belonging in 2007 [when they were removed to recondition] and no one wants that to happen again. A lot of lessons have been learned.
"We want to select and then prepare a squad that can win the championship and we know we are not going to do that by burning through the same 22 each week.
"I would imagine we would replicate largely what we did last year and I think the only real difference is that we will have clarity, more communication with the All Black coaches so that we are all in alignment."
The New Zealand Rugby Union had been hoping to use McCaw's current six-week rest period as an opportunity to begin and hopefully conclude formal talks about extending his contract through to at least 2012.
But both parties are still working through a number of details and it's now unlikely the NZRU will have a suitable offer worked out before the All Blacks head on their Grand Slam tour.
Dan Carter is also on the national body's hit list to extend his contract but he too is going to have to wait until at least December before any paperwork is presented.