Marc Hinton August 2, 2011
Richie McCaw is way too smart to start up a war of words with the Wallabies this week.
So he kept schtum yesterday, no matter how hard the media tried to push him into a little bit of Aussie bashing.
McCaw is usually public enemy No.1 across the Tasman, with familiar rent-a-quotes wheeled out before Bledisloes or other major trans-Tasman clashes, to suggest he's the biggest breakdown cheat the game's ever seen.
Recent stories have even suggested he's been surpassed by David Pocock as the game's pre-eminent No 7.
It's all water off the duck's back to the 96-test veteran, and he never reacts, no matter how annoyed he might get about the predictability and lack of imagination such tactics reveal.
That discipline remained rigid yesterday, even if the All Blacks skipper might have been tempted to take the bait as he fronted reporters in Auckland to unveil a pre-World Cup heartland initiative. After all, he has been on the wrong side of his fair share of over-zealous celebrations from gleeful Aussies over recent times.
Last October in Hong Kong the classy captain suffered the indignity of an over-the-top Quade Cooper shoving him in the head after the Wallabies snatched a last-gasp victory off the All Blacks to halt a 10-test losing streak.
And then twice during the Super Rugby campaign, including in the grand final, McCaw finished on the wrong end of tight contests against the Reds, with the Queenslanders not exactly holding back in their delight, or their celebrations.
Asked whether such things might factor into the motivations of he and his fellow Crusaders in the national setup, McCaw retained the poker face.
If the 30-year-old is the vengeful type, he was keeping his powder dry as the build-up started for Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup Test at Eden Park that is already being tagged as having major World Cup repercussions.
"It's easy to say that when you're on the losing end, [but] you don't want to be accused of sour grapes," he responded to a query on whether Aussie celebrations had "rankled" him. "I guess it showed how much it meant to them, but it would be nice not to see that too much this year any more."
McCaw agreed there was a psychological aspect to Saturday's test at the venue where the World Cup final will be played and where the Wallabies have not beaten the All Blacks since 1986.
"It'd be silly not to say it's pretty important. It's not the end of the world [if we lose], but I think it's something we're pretty motivated to do. It's our last test at home and you want to have a good memory going into the next tournament that you've done the job at the place where it's all going to happen later in the year.
"Up until that Hong Kong test we'd had a fair few in a row. The key for us is to make sure just because we've had some success over the last few years, we don't think it's just going to happen.
"In all those tests we had to work pretty hard to win, and this week will be no different. Last week was a step in the right direction, but this being the last home game till September we want to make sure we do it right. What that means down track I'm not sure, but there's a fair bit of motivation to win this test."
And McCaw admitted his own confidence was building nicely after a satisfying performance in the near-record 40-7 thrashing of the Springboks in Wellington.
"Last weekend was my best game of the year, and I'm getting close to where I need to be," he said. "I'm starting to feel like the rhythm is coming back."
The likely return of Kieran Read to the loose trio should help on that front, with assistant coach Wayne Smith confirming he, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks and Keven Mealamu were all set to be involved this week after their fortnight of light duties.
"We've played a lot of rugby together, he's pretty comfortable at 8, and I'm just getting my game going again at 7," added the skipper. It's an ominous combination and one McCaw hopes will prevent any more Aussie celebrations this weekend.