Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The nightmare scenario
Wednesday Feb 9, 2011

Don't look now but we're about to get a sneak preview of one of the All Blacks' nightmare World Cup scenarios.

Richie McCaw is injured.

The Crusaders and All Blacks captain announced yesterday that he would miss the first six weeks of the Super 15, his start in the competition delayed because of a stress fracture in the right foot.

McCaw developed pain in his foot while doing a "yo-yo" running fitness test with his Crusaders teammates in Christchurch, on Monday last week.

A scan late last week confirmed he had a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot - the bone running down the outside of the foot to the little toe. He has been booked in for surgery to insert a small screw into the bone.

"There is no choice," McCaw said. "With or without the surgery I would be looking at time out so I've decided it is the thing to do.
"It's not ideal, I was feeling pretty good fitness-wise."

Asked whether it was better to have an injury occur now rather than later in the year, McCaw deadpanned: "You could look at it like that.

"I wanted to get stuck in for the Crusaders and get going for the year. But, being a big year, we'll deal with it now and hopefully that will be all we have to deal with.
"I am going to require a screw to be put in there in the next few days," McCaw said. "That will mean six weeks before I'm back playing again. It's a wee bit frustrating I guess. It's not a major really, just one of those things you have to deal with and get ready to play again."

The Crusaders had already planned for their captain to sit out the first two rounds - against the Blues in Auckland and Hurricanes in Wellington - after a long year of rugby in 2010.
Loose forward Kieran Read will captain the Super 15 side in McCaw's absence.

McCaw said: "The injury is obviously disappointing but it's not likely to be one that will bother me in the long term. I'll have the operation and then get on with my rehab and look forward to turning out for the Crusaders when I'm given the all-clear by the medical staff.
"It's not a major stress fracture, but it's one of those ones that can niggle."
He will be off the foot completely for at least two weeks before he can resume limited training. "In six weeks' time I will be ready to go again and it [the break] might have a positive at the end of the year. I'll take the silver lining."

So will Graham Henry and his colleagues. It is no secret that injuries to either McCaw or first five-eighths Daniel Carter will leave the biggest voids in their World Cup planning. Henry professed himself pleased with Daniel Braid on the Grand Slam tour, but the Aucklander is some way short of McCaw class.

Perhaps the long-term answer to the openside succession problem will get his opportunity for the Crusaders in McCaw's absence.

Matt Todd, the raw-boned 22-year-old flanker, has impressed many astute judges and will get his chance in the opening two months of the reconfigured Super 15, which was launched at a glitzy do at the Auckland Museum last night.

By Dylan Cleaver

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