A rested and refreshed All Blacks captain has said that he doesn't mind playing for an entire match, while his understudy Daniel Braid credits the new manner in which the game is played for his revival.
Richie McCaw has played in every match so far this season, missing only four minutes of action throughout the All Blacks 2010 campaign.But the Telecom Backing Black end of year tour squad contains an openside flanker, the first time this year that McCaw has had specialist cover at number seven.The All Blacks have felt that other loose forwards have been able to cover if necessary, but they will likely use the tour to develop Braid should the unthinkable occur and McCaw be unavailable.But the All Blacks captain is hardly volunteering for rest.
"I don't mind playing through every game," McCaw told Fairfax Media. "I want to be on the field as much as possible. I guess from the team's point of view to have someone in the environment that changes the mix a bit is good. "From a selfish point you always want to be playing but I understand that's not always the case."
Braid has four test caps, and recently moved back to New Zealand after a successful stint with the Queensland Reds.Alongside McCaw, Braid has adjusted his game superbly to work with the new law interpretations, and his work had not gone unnoticed by the man most regard as the premier number seven in world rugby.
"The way he's performed for the Reds, especially in this year's Super 14, he played particularly well," said McCaw. "He obviously made the decision to come back to New Zealand to carry that on and hope to get back in this team and he's been rewarded for that. "He's been around a long time now and played a lot of rugby, he has that experience of being able to cope with the different game, you can start to see that coming through. "He's led the Auckland team pretty well too, so it's good to see him back. He's not foreign to this environment, but it's good to see him get another opportunity."
Braid feels that his impact is enhanced under attacking rugby, evidenced in 2003, when he was an integral part of the Blues charge to the Investec Super rugby title that year.This was shown again this season when a Queensland Reds team willing to attack allowed Braid to have tremendous impact as arguably the team’s most influential forward.He has welcomed the change in rugby.
"The role of a No7 has gone back to be closer to what it was like when I first started with the law interpretations going the way they are," Braid said to stuff.co.nz "A few years ago it was easy for everyone across the field to get the turnovers and it was a defensive game, with a lot of kicking the ball in the air, which hasn't been a strong point in my game. "But now it pays to hold onto the ball and have continuity, which has been a huge part of my game, it's back to what I did well in the early stages of my career."
While his move to Queensland essentially ruled him out of All Blacks selection, he always hoped that his form would force a rethink.
"My goal for the start of the season, considering I was playing against New Zealand teams, was to make the All Blacks want to select me from Australia, even though I was playing for a different team," he said. "That was the motivation there but I didn't think it would actually happen. "How it turned out was that I managed to get a contract back here and was able to have a crack and make the All Blacks again."