Friday, July 08, 2011

Early chance at redemption for Richie McCaw

In the eyes of New Zealand's rugby public Richie McCaw's chance at redemption most likely occurs when the All Blacks play France at Eden Park on September 24.

Then, at the venue of the inaugural World Cup final 24 years ago, the All Blacks have an opportunity to atone for their quarterfinal demise at Cardiff four years ago.

McCaw was captain that depressing afternoon inside the Millennium Stadium and his leadership did not escape criticism during a nationwide post-match analysis.

Yet before the pool match against the Tricolores, the world-renowned flanker has another ledger to square at Queensland's footballing fortress.

After all, McCaw was the culprit - in Australian referee Stuart Dickinson's view - when the Crusaders last visited Suncorp Stadium on May 29.

When McCaw was penalised for using hands in the ruck in the 80th minute, Quade Cooper stepped up to slot the straightforward penalty that gave the table-topping Reds a 17-16 victory.
McCaw and Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder gritted their teeth in the aftermath of that controversial decision; he was more philosophical yesterday when asked if the outcome still gnawed away.

"It's disappointing, but you put that behind you because we have an opportunity to turn things around," he said.
"I know the guys are pretty motivated, perhaps there's a wee bit of an edge there because we were tipped up here a few weeks ago."

McCaw is primed for a top drawer performance, admittedly a rarity since a stress fracture in his foot has limited him to sporadic appearances as the Crusaders strive to reward their earthquake-ravaged support base with a morale-boosting title.

He returned to the starting line-up against the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend and was fairly subdued about his performance in tandem with Kieran Read, George Whitelock and later, Matt Todd.
"It was okay. I was happy enough having not done a whole lot of running. My fitness wasn't too bad but there's always room for improvement."

McCaw has also been put on notice by Reds openside Beau Robinson, the Jean-Pierre Rives look-alike who was bar tending part-time until his fifth appearance of the season - against the Cheetahs - credited him with a $A60,000 playing contract on March 26.
The duo engaged in a willing breakdown battle for 48 minutes in round 15 before Robinson had his elbow dislocated by "some big Kiwi bastard".

Until he was hospitalised Robinson fared well against McCaw and this week bullishly claimed he had never been overshadowed by an opposing No.7 all season.

"I've done pretty well this year, I think. I don't feel as though I've come up against a seven where I've been dominated. I'm not saying I've won every battle, but I don't think I've been dominated," the 24-year-old said.

McCaw's keenest trans-Tasman rivalry is currently with the Western Force's David Pocock but he still rated Robinson, a possible World Cup back-up to the Zimbabwe-born star.
"I had a good battle with him the last time we played," he said on the eve of just his seventh appearance of the campaign.
"He's played pretty well for the Reds. He seems to have quite a bit of influence at the breakdown, which is obviously what you want from a number seven."


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