By the end of it, I thought Barnes was frozen with fear and wouldn't make any big calls
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has admitted that he regrets letting his on-field feud with Quade Cooper last year become personal.
In his newly released autobiography: The Open Side, the World Cup-winning captain revealed that the off-the-ball niggle from Cooper last year led to him singling the Wallabies flyhalf out on the field during a Test match.
The duel started when Cooper kneed McCaw in the head once the whistle had gone in a Tri-Nations encounter in Brisbane last year, and led to the New Zealand-born flyhalf being booed mercilessly throughout the World Cup.
McCaw said that whilst the actual contact had not been serious, the nature of the cheap shot angered him, which led to his emotions getting the better of him on the pitch.
"There was a bit of post-game controversy around Quade Cooper's attempt to knee me in the head as he was extricating himself from a ruck," McCaw wrote.
"The intent of what he was trying to do pissed me off more than the execution. Shortly after that happened, I was carrying and should have passed, but I lit up and I saw Quade standing in front of me and clattered into him instead.
"I was disappointed in myself doing that, letting it get personal. There's no need - players like Quade get sorted. Sooner or later they get their beans."
The legendary All Blacks skipper also revealed that he held a strong preference for the re-appointment of Graham Henry as coach ahead of his former Crusaders mentor Robbie Deans after the disappointment of the 2007 World Cup.
According to McCaw, Henry's willingness to debate and discuss his decisions with his assistant coaches made him a much stronger candidate than Deans.
"Robbie doesn't appear to want to be challenged by his assistants and won't allow the kind of full-on debate that Ted [Henry] encourages with [Wayne] Smith and [Steve] Hansen.
"Robbie's approach is to say, 'This is what we're doing,' then convince people that's the way it's got to be. He's very good at that.
"But when you look at the record of Robbie's assistant coaches, there's quite a lot of turnover and fallout. Robbie's intransigence and reluctance to delegate might have been a factor ... if you look at the names of some of Robbie's assistants. Colin Cooper, Vern Cotter, Don Hayes, Todd Blackadder. It's tempting to draw the conclusion that if Robbie gets a strong assistant coach, the assistant won't last, and if he gets one that lasts, he's not that strong."
McCaw added that the fact that Henry had already lined up his assistant coaches when he submitted his application meant that he had no hesitation in backing him for a second term as coach.
"The applications in front of the NZRU are telling. Robbie hasn't named his assistants, though [then Auckland coach] Pat Lam's has been mentioned in some reports. But Pat hasn't coached at Super 14 level yet. So the question actually is: Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen or Robbie Deans and unknown assistant coaches? That's a critical difference right there.
"...so when [NZRU CEO] Steve Tew phones me for an informal catch-up on this and that, I tell him I'm happy to work with either, but I do have a view on which option might be better for the All Blacks."
Although he steered clear of any controversial claims about referees, McCaw did suggest that Wayne Barnes may have been out of his depth in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal against France.
"This was Barnes' biggest game by far. On the big stage, an inexperienced referee is likely to become so afraid of making a mistake that he stops making any decisions at all.
"By the end of it, I thought Barnes was frozen with fear and wouldn't make any big calls."
His analysis of Bryce Lawrence's performance in the 2011 quarterfinal between Australia and South Africa was very similar, although it came as no surprise to McCaw who had suffered at the hands of Lawrence in the Super Rugby Final against the Reds months earlier.
"Australia are lucky to beat South Africa in Wellington, after Bryce Lawrence does what he did in Brisbane in the Super 15 final - freezes, and forgets to blow his whistle," he wrote.