All Blacks and Crusaders captain Richie McCaw has started running again after foot surgery and hopes to play in a few weeks time.
But he will not rush back to the Super rugby arena before he is ready and has professed his faith in young understudy Matt Todd.
McCaw broke a bone in his foot during pre-season training and had a pin inserted to help it heal. He was on crutches for several weeks but said yesterday he "started running again this week, so hopefully I will be playing in the next two or three weeks".
The 30-year-old flanker said he did not "want to put a [date] on" his return but thought it could be in "three-odd weeks, all going well".
He would make sure he was completely right before risking a return.
"I certainly won't be doing anything silly. I'm pretty keen to get back playing. But I'd like to think I'd make the right decision, regardless [of whether it was World Cup year]. But having a guy like Matt playing pretty well, the pressure doesn't come on so much to push it."
McCaw felt the Crusaders back row with Super rugby rookie Todd at openside flanker, George Whitelock on the blindside and captain Kieran Read at No8, had knitted together well. He was "pretty impressed with the way" Todd had stepped up and believed he had benefited from "having a few games in a row".
Meanwhile, McCaw had no beef with Crusaders management's decision to play home games in Napier and Wellington. But he said it "means every game we play now is basically an away game".
"Even playing in Timaru and Nelson are almost away games. The guys making those decisions make their decisions and we just have to do the best we can. We can't let it be an excuse. We just have to prepare the best we can because we want to win it."
All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen is satisfied with what he's seen so far from New Zealand teams in the Super competition but he warned there was "a long way to go yet".
"Our All Blacks are all, by and large, playing very well. There are one or two injured right now, but there's plenty of time for them to get over that and come back. We're keeping our fingers crossed that not too many of them get injured. But by and large their performances have been great and the franchises are playing a good brand of rugby.
"It's good to see the Highlanders playing for each other and performing."
Hansen said teams "with the depth and ability to rotate players" would probably prosper as the competition progresses. He said there was still room in a World Cup year for players outside the current All Blacks squad to press their claims for a test callup. "There's always room for someone to play their way into any national side in any given year and this year's no different. But it will be the form in the latter part of the competition [conference playoffs and the final] which will matter the most ...
"How they perform under that pressure, that's what we will be looking for."
- The Press