TONY SMITH - THE BALD FACTS
OPINION: Let's hope the New Zealand Rugby Union heeds the words of All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.
The Crusaders captain announced yesterday the All Blacks would train in Christchurch during the World Cup to raise spirits after the earthquake and ease any pain still lingering after tournament poobahs shifted seven matches from the city.
No-one expected the All Blacks to spurn Christchurch completely – not with so many players (McCaw, Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams, Kieran Read, Brad Thorn, Andy Ellis and Sam Whitelock among them) based in the city and all three coaches with strong Canterbury links.
But watching the All Blacks train is one thing – seeing them play is another. The New Zealand Rugby Union still have to formally announce where they plan to stage the All Blacks' test against a South Pacific opponent – probably Fiji – on July 22.
Every rugby fan in the South Island will be hoping Dunedin will be the venue – including, it seems, McCaw.
The All Blacks captain is the consummate diplomat. Asked yesterday where he'd like the game to be played, he insisted he was "not too worried", but admitted it would be "nice to play it in the South Island, maybe in Dunedin, if the new stadium is ready".
It's been 16 years (Rugby World Cup season in 1995) since the All Blacks went through a calendar year without playing a test in the South Island. How did that happen with proud southern man Laurie Mains in charge?
A southern daily was trumpeting this week that Dunedin would get the July 22 test. Here's hoping they're right, because if training in quake-hit Christchurch is the scoop of ice-cream South Island fans are craving, then a test in the mainland would be the chocolate-dip icing.
Richie's rugby reverie Attention Graham Henry, Todd Blackadder and Rob Penney: Richie McCaw's got news for you.
McCaw yesterday revealed his deepest rugby desire to a gaggle of goggle-eyed schoolkids at New Brighton Catholic School.
Asked what position – other than open-side flanker – he'd most like to play, McCaw quickly shot back: "I've never had a game in the backs."
"That probably tells me something – that I haven't got enough speed – but I would like to have a game in the backs one day."
Look out Dan Carter – McCaw has a hankering for first five-eighth.
"When you play No10 you get to tell everyone what to do. I would like to play 10, but I just know I wouldn't be good enough for that. That's why I'm still in the forwards. But I'm hoping one day the coach will let me play in the backs," McCaw said.
All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen copped a curly question of his own at the school. He was asked if the All Blacks always listened to what he told them.
"Sometimes they don't listen," Hansen grinned. "And when they don't, I get quite grumpy with them and they start listening."
- The Press