TOBY ROBSON 08/08/2011
If you were getting just a tad concerned about Richie McCaw's form before Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match, you weren't alone.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry revealed yesterday the skipper himself was having a few quiet moments of self-doubt in the buildup to the test.
The bad news for the rest of the rugby world is McCaw reached into his top drawer against the Wallabies as he led them to a 30-14 win.
"He played his best game of the year last night, I thought, didn't he," Henry said. "He is pleased. He's been anxious about his form."
McCaw came into the test season underdone after battling a foot injury through the Super rugby season, but hasn't taken long to shake off the rust.
He topped the tackle count at Eden Park with 15, was prominent with ball in hand and ever-present at the breakdown as he outplayed young rival David Pocock.
There was also a decisiveness to his captaincy, a shot at goal signalled without hesitation in the 67th minute when the All Blacks were ahead 27-12.
Blindside Jerome Kaino was also superb, adding another block in his reputation as a heavy hitter.
Assistant coach Steve Hansen said Kaino "imprinted himself on a few Australians", but Kaino will show his softer side in taking two weeks out before the cup to be with his pregnant partner.
The Aucklander will travel to South Africa, with No8 Kieran Read expected to be given another break to spend time with his young family in Christchurch.
That could mean a final chance against the Springboks for Liam Messam to push his cup claims after missing the playing squad in Auckland.
- The Dominion Post