MARC HINTON 05/08/2011
Richie McCaw is a hard sell at the best of times - and the All Blacks skipper definitely wasn't buying the hype over tomorrow night's clash against the Wallabies having serious World Cup repercussions.
Forget the World Cup for now, reckoned Richie. This match, expected to draw a crowd of around 55,000, was all about the Bledisloe Cup and not much else from an All Blacks perspective. Win, and the All Blacks had the big boy tucked away for another year.
Fair enough. History writes in neon that Tri-Nations success does not translate into World Cup glory. In fact, quite the opposite.
So when McCaw spoke late this afternoon after the Captain's Run at Eden Park - family day with many players having wives and kids in attendance - he was adamant the match would have little bearing on what transpired come September and October.
Even if many are picking this Bledisloe opener to be repeated come the final.
"History shows that what happens now doesn't count for a lot down the track," said McCaw. "We'd love to have a good performance here. It's the last time in New Zealand before the World Cup and obviously at the stadium [that will host the finals].
"We've got to be careful we don't get carried away with down the track. We've got to make sure we perform well this weekend. The Bledisloe is on the line and it would be nice if we hold on to that for another year.
"If we do the job right then hopefully come October, if it plays out like that, it might help then. But we've got to make sure we get the job right for a big test."
Perhaps some statements to be made then? Some psychological high ground to be taken against an Aussie side that hasn't won at Eden Park since 1986?
"We want to have a good experience at this ground, a good performance so we realise what we're doing is right," added the skip.
"Whether it's a statement or not, from our point of view we're just pretty keen to play well."
McCaw also gave short shrift to any relationship between this team's age - it's the oldest All Black side ever - and its performance.
"I don't get too carried away with those sort of things. All the guys are excited about playing and can't wait to get out there. The guys all feel pretty good."
And all that experience came with a caveat, reckoned McCaw.
"Just because you've been around a while doesn't mean you can just turn up on Saturday and play well. You've got to prepare well, do all the little things and do your bit for the team. Hopefully the guys who have been around a while understand that."
McCaw did share the interpretation that the distinct lack of bluster out of the Wallaby camp over the last few days indicated their game faces were on.
That it was time to walk the walk. Not squawk the squawk.
"It's what happens tomorrow night, not what happens beforehand," added the All Blacks captain after the pro-Wallaby bluster appeared to dry up inside and outside of the Aussie set-up. "I know with our team we just want to get into it so all the talk and that sort of carry-on means nothing."
Just in case McCaw had any shots to fire, Australian reporters checked whether he thought the Wallabies lacked respect for the All Blacks, as had been hinted at by Steve Hansen earlier in the week. He didn't. And his thoughts on rival David Pocock? They were, er, respectful.
His parting thought was on whether there was ever such a thing as an insignificant Bledisloe Cup, what with all there is to come in mere weeks.
"No, not at this point, because it's about Saturday," said McCaw. "Once we get past that there will be another game and then we'll get to the tournament. As a rugby player you can't get ahead of yourselves.
"The Bledisloe is on the line, we want to perform to keep it and that's all there is to it."
- Fairfax Media