TONY SMITH - Canterbury
Richie McCaw may be leaning towards suiting up for the next Super Rugby season rather than invoking the sabbatical clause in his new four-year contract.
The 30-year-old Crusaders and All Blacks captain yesterday confirmed what he'd hinted at for months – that he is committed to New Zealand rugby until the 2015 World Cup.
He has the same sabbatical clause in his contract as team-mate Dan Carter – who also re-signed until 2015 last week. It allows rugby's two most prized assets to take up a short-term contract overseas or have an extended break.
But, unlike Carter who has already had one offshore spell at French club Perpignan, McCaw is not "particularly interested" in playing away.
He would be more likely to use his break to give his body a break and avoid "burnout".
But do not assume he will skip next year's Super 15 season to recharge after the rigours of leading the All Blacks at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
"I haven't even thought about it at all, to be honest. The reality is after the World Cup, we've got November, December and January before the Crusaders play again, so that's a pretty good break as it is."
If he felt like a sabbatical, he would "sit down at the right time" with the Crusaders or All Black coaches or the New Zealand Rugby Union "and talk about what's best" for all concerned.
"Even if [the sabbatical clause] wasn't in your contract, you'd sit down, like I have with Todd [Blackadder] at the start of each Crusaders campaign and say `with an extra couple of weeks off here, I think I'll be better down the track'."
McCaw concedes he is unlikely to play many more games for Canterbury – as much as he "loves to pull on the [red-and-black] jersey whenever I get the chance".
"It's becoming more and more unlikely with the way the long Super rugby season is now, with the way Tri-Nations and other [international] stuff is heading in the years going forward. But there's always injuries I wouldn't say it's definitely not going to happen, but it won't be as frequent as it has been in the past."
Asked if his four-year contract meant he was now "Richie rich", he quipped: "Compared to going overseas, probably not." He said he had not compared contracts with Carter's. He was very happy. "That's what contracts are all about if you walk away happy – it's a fair deal".
The 94-test veteran – already New Zealand rugby's most experienced captain after 57 tests in charge – said he would like to continue leading the All Blacks for the next four years.
"That will be up to the coaches but I've been through five years of learning how to be captain. It's probably from now on that you get to use those experiences. You're still learning all the time. If it's the right thing for someone else to do it, I'll be told that. But I'd like to think, if I'm still good enough to be in the team, I could still captain it."
He would prefer to continue in the physically demanding open-side flanker's role rather than switch to the blindside or No8.
"I will do whatever's right for the team, but I feel that's my best position to be the best player I can be."
McCaw said Carter's decision to stay was a big boost and he hoped others, including Sonny Bill Williams, might also.
He was not aware of coach Graham Henry's post-World Cup plans.
"I think he's just thinking about this year, to be honest." But McCaw said it "has been great over this last four years to have some continuity [in the coaching staff]".
"Whether [the NZRU] go for that [after the World Cup], whether it's a tweak or a whole new structure, I don't know. But you don't want to keep chucking out the stuff that's worked well. There's been some pretty good things that have been done over the past wee while."