MARC HINTON 07/09/2012
His bosses may have their misgivings, but All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw says he's not losing any sleep over his old coach spilling state secrets to the Argentineans ahead of tomorrow night's Rugby Championship clash at the Cake Tin.
Sir Graham Henry's role with the Pumas has had the New Zealand media aflutter this week, even though it had been sign-posted a long time ago.
NZRU boss Steve Tew admitted he had some misgivings over the World Cup-winning coach having such a close involvement with the Pumas' preparations, and even Henry's successor and long-time sidekick Steve Hansen claimed he was "disappointed" by the extent of the rugby knight's role.
But if Sir Graham's sleeping-with-the-enemy alignment had unsettled his old players, then McCaw was doing a heck of a job disguising it as he spoke to the media at Friday's Captain's Run at the Stadium.
"To be honest it doesn't really worry me," said McCaw today.
"We've got to focus on what we need to worry about, and what we did last year is last year. To be honest I haven't really given it much thought."
Asked about the extent of the inside knowledge Henry could offer the Argentineans, McCaw just shrugged and indicated that there weren't as many secrets in test rugby as people probably thought.
"You watch last week's game and you pick up probably what you want to anyway," said the New Zealand skipper.
"You have an idea what the opposition is going to do but the key is to stop it. That's what we've got to do.
"You don't change things a whole lot week to week, but it's the subtle changes that are different, and we change them all the time. It comes down to getting the set piece right and getting ball across the advantage line.
"I've been in teams where we know what other teams are doing but you can't stop it. That's what we've got to make sure we do."
And McCaw admitted there were positives to Henry's role with Argentina that were probably best viewed without the All Black blinkers affixed.
"You want four teams that are going to be hugely competitive. The Argentineans have already showed that, and they probably should have won [in Mendoza] against South Africa. So it makes for a pretty good competition, and just means you've got to be on the job every week."
By all accounts some of Henry's words are falling on deaf ears in the Pumas anyway. The Kiwi is urging the South Americans to chance their arm and play a more expansive game. But so far they've kept pretty close to their well-worn blueprint.
"I don't think they'll change a whole lot how they go about things," added McCaw. "They're good at putting the ball in the air and forcing you into mistakes. If we allow them to have space I'm sure they'll use it but we've got to make sure we don't give them that chance."
The skipper was also pretty quick to shrug off any significance to Dan Carter's Wellington injury curse that sees the world-class No 10 miss another test in the capital. McCaw made it pretty clear he has a mountain of faith in the abilities of exciting young understudy Aaron Cruden.
"We've been in that situation before and I'm sure Azza is ready to go," he said, referring to the dramas at No 10 through last year's World Cup.
"He has [proven himself]. His last outing was only 20 minutes (against Ireland) but it was a pretty good 20 minutes he played. If we can get that for 80 minutes tomorrow it will be pretty good."
McCaw clearly respects the Pumas. He says he expects them to be stronger with inspirational loose forward Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and playmaker Juan Hernandez back. The All Blacks' challenge, he added, was to limit the effectiveness of both.
And as for some typically inclement capital weather playing into the Pumas' hands, McCaw was keen to refute that theory.
"We've got to make sure it plays into our hands. Regardless of whether it's wet or dry it's going to be a battle up front. Our boys will be quite excited if it is wet because it gives them a chance to get stuck in. We've just got to make sure it's in our favour, not theirs."
McCaw also made it clear he expects a tighter approach this week after so many favourable opportunities were blown against the Wallabies in Auckland.
"I don't know whether it's over-eagerness but sometimes it's about calming down and making sure you see what's in front of you so you make those decisions right.
"We're creating half chances but sometimes you've got to have the patience to make it a full chance. That comes down to individual decisions, but as a team it's getting that feeling right so you can trust your instincts."
No doubt Henry has already told the Pumas to expect a more clinical All Blacks side. Whether he's given them the armoury to deal with is another matter altogether.