Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Holiday could keep Richie in contention for next cup
By Chris RattuMonday Sep 24, 2012

Richie McCaw has hardly put a foot wrong in his glittering career and he's done it again with the timing of his holiday. Yes, holiday - that's what this column is calling it, even though rugby prefers the posh-sounding alternative "sabbatical".
McCaw needs this R and R to remain in contention for the next World Cup. A six-month break will allow all those "niggling" injuries, things that would send most of us to our beds, to heal properly.
Considering the way he has burst into life again this season, it will be fascinating to see what the re-energised McCaw plays like.
McCaw will, according to reports, miss the three-test series against France in June along with much of the 2013 Super 15.
This means the All Blacks are about to find out how they fare without Captain Fantastic, and shocks are in store, especially if that other braveheart, Kieran Read, should strike injury problems.
My pick: a few holes in the All Blacks' make-up, both physical and mental, will be exposed. But finding out what those deficiencies are will only make the team stronger.
The All Blacks will be forced into giving the backup (probably Sam Cane) vital test time and the proper chance to prove his worth. This should have happened in the past but it was always too difficult to deny McCaw tests he deserved or contemplate going into games without him.
The bottom line is that should McCaw and Dan Carter survive until the 2015 tournament, there should be high-class cover, unlike last year.
Weekend stories about McCaw's holiday were accompanied by details of the "cheap shots" he has copped over the years. The evidence is damning and the claim fair, so long as we accept that All Blacks are also capable of skulduggery.
ITM schedule ridiculous
The Jimmy Cowan support group is growing. As the Sunday Star-Times reported last week, Cowan - the Southland halfback - has led the charge against the ridiculous ITM Cup schedule, saying it was too tough on players and was driving the public away. Administrators are just as concerned, according to the newspaper's latest report.
The Auckland CEO Andy Dalton says he favoured a 10-team, 12-week competition, and he is on the right track - the only solution is to trim the top tier of the provincial game.
That would take strong, clear-thinking leadership from the NZRU, along with a willingness to fight through inevitable cries of foul. But that's what the NZRU - whose indecisive administration of the national competition is a disgrace - needs to do.
The relentless schedule is designed to give Sky Television a better spread of fodder for the masses, but has turned the provincial competition into low-grade touch football, of escalating scores and crowds disappearing quicker than the tackles.
Anscombe hard done by
It's no surprise that Gareth Anscombe is confused and bitter about his treatment by the Blues. Yes, the new coaching regime has the right to pick who they believe fits their game plan.
But contrary to the general drift, Anscombe does possess the running ability they need.
Anscombe - a fantastic goalkicker - was a rookie in an awful Blues side this year. His development was stuffed around by poor coaching in a team hurt by defections, and he's being stuffed around again. It is hard to understand why the junior star is so out of favour in Auckland.
Thuggish tackling shocks
What a pleasure to watch the Manly Sea Eagles get smashed by the brilliant Melbourne Storm in the NRL playoffs. Manly's failure to do anything about Steve Matai's thuggish tackling is appalling and Matai was the worst player on the field on Friday night, although Sea Eagles' forwards Jason King and Tony Williams gave him a close run.
Matai put in another marginal shot early in the game, but was soon hobbling around with an injury, another common part to his game.
I would reiterate my call for the Kiwis to not even consider the Manly centre until he proves conclusively that his swinging-arm, high-tackling days are over. In the usual suspect category, Souths captain Michael Crocker - another judicial regular - was put on report.
Bellamy takes some beating
Des Hasler is certainly making his mark as a premier league coach, first with the Sea Eagles and now the Bulldogs. But Craig Bellamy still takes some beating as league's finest.
There are old footballers around who, quite rightly, bemoan their sport, which has become so formulated that whereas union was once derided as "kick and clap", league now celebrates "getting to the kick".
But formulated it is, and no one has designed a recipe the way Bellamy has - the Storm's speed and precision against Manly were breathtaking.
U-turn on brilliant Inu
A u-turn from this Krisnan Inu sceptic - the Warriors' failure has been sensational since transferring to the Bulldogs. He had another superb game against Souths. Inu's languid brilliance is unique and refreshing in a game dominated by the robotic. Never thought I'd write these words - I can't wait to see Inu play each week.


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