Thursday, March 31, 2011

"All Blacks never need extra motivation" James Mortimer - (25/03/2011) Injured Crusaders and All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has said that the Christchurch earthquake may be on the team’s minds, but that there will be no need for any extra incentive to break what is a historic World Cup drought. McCaw, who will soon have his ‘moon boot’ removed and resume running and light training, will not run out with the Crusaders ahead of their clash with the Sharks at Twickenham. It will be a fascinating fixture, a week after the Six Nations concluded, where numerous All Blacks – sans McCaw – and Springboks will be on display and no doubt will be watched by the English and other Northern rugby nations. Yet despite some critics saying that the overall quality of the recently concluded tournament was low, McCaw feels that the European kingpins will still be formidable at the World Cup. One only needs to look back as far as the last tournament in France, where both the All Blacks and Wallabies were shocked by the French and England respectively in the quarter finals. England, despite a poor buildup to 2007, exceeded expectations and reached the final. Some feel, including former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick, that the North, courtesy of experiencing ‘knock out rugby’ during the Heineken Cup, are better prepared for the sudden death style of rugby that begins in the finals of the global championship. McCaw said form counted for little. "If you look at what happened before the last World Cup and then what happened at the wash-up, then yes I expect the northern hemisphere teams will be challenging," said McCaw."England tripped up against Ireland but they certainly showed they know how to win games. If you look at the personnel the French have and even the Welsh, they have some good players too, they can all be threats.” Things will change between now and then, there's lots of time for that in the build-up. Teams will go up a level. One phenomenon that some felt affected the All Blacks was that the current number one ranked team in world rugby was expected to maintain a winning legacy at all times, whereas other nations could in some respects afford to lose in between Cup years with a view to winning rugby’s Holy Grail. So other teams in a sense lifted their performance during World Cups to a standard that the All Blacks strived to maintain at all times.This has led to some shock exits for New Zealand. "We won't take anyone for granted (at the upcoming World Cup), we've learnt those lessons I can tell you," McCaw said. He felt England, recognised as the strongest Northern nation despite their 24-8 loss to Ireland, would be better for their defeat. "I know there's been criticism of England for doing okay while not getting things right each time," he said."As long as you're winning and learning your lessons I'm sure they will be better for those experiences."I'm sure that later on in the year they'll take all the positives out of that. They lost the last game and sometimes they're the lessons that hurt the most." As for the All Blacks own World Cup chances, McCaw said that pain could sometimes be the greatest motivator. "There's a few of us in the team who have been through those experiences and you hope those experiences will hurt," he said."You can't hide from it, it's there and we have to deal with it. The World Cup should be tough to win. That's why people appreciate it. I don't think there's a mental block with the All Blacks. You know what you need to do, it's just a matter of doing it. All teams will feel the pressure. You have to be excited about it, which is a subtle difference in the way you view it." Heading into the World Cup, there have been suggestions from Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff that the All Blacks could change the silver fern to red to represent the Christchurch tragedy. McCaw wasn’t too keen on the idea. "I don't think that's a goer at all, to be honest," McCaw said."The silver fern is something that has got a lot of history. I wouldn't say no if it was one game, there's the possibility of playing a game before the Tri-Nations, and doing something." This comes from an All Blacks captain who has proudly represented the legacy of the team, notably changing into the traditional black jersey in post match interviews after playing in alternate grey or white strips. He knew people back home would understand. "Canterbury people don't expect things like that, they realise everyone is thinking of them and there's other small ways of showing that they are in our thoughts,” McCaw said.“You've got to be careful mixing up tradition too much. Winning the tournament is enough of a tribute to them, I'd suggest." This echoed the sentiments of other All Blacks, with Dan Carter stating that “obviously the silver fern is pretty special in its own right.”As for whether one of the worst disasters in New Zealand history would provide extra motivation, McCaw summed it up in an interview with the Independent. "Will it make a difference to our mindset when the World Cup begins?” McCaw said to the Independent. “I'd like to think we as All Blacks never need extra motivation of any description, but we'll be conscious of the tough time the people of Christchurch will still be going through and it would be good to put a smile on their faces. What happened certainly put rugby in its proper perspective, but come the World Cup, the pressure on us to win will definitely be there. That part of being an All Black won't change.”


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