New Zealand

McCaw's 'sabbatical' extended

Sat, 13 Apr 2013 07:43
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I want him to stay away!
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All Black captain Richie McCaw will miss the entire Super Rugby season as he continues his sabbatical with the aim of prolonging his career.

The 32-year-old McCaw, a veteran of 116 tests, will play for his Christchurch club side before making his return to internationals at a Rugby Championship Test against Australia on August 17.

McCaw last played in New Zealand's 21-38 loss to England at Twickenham on December 2 and will have been out of top-level rugby for almost 10 months when he returns in August.

His extended lay-off is part of New Zealand's strategy to extend the careers of older players by reducing their workloads.

According to reports in the New Zealand media it was a simple decision, as McCaw didn't want to come back to the seven-time champion Crusaders with the likes of George Whitelock and Matt Todd playing for the entire season.

All but confirmed to captain the All Blacks during the tournament, the World Champions will have an interim captain, widely expected to be Kieran Read, when France arrives in June for the three-Test Series.

Originally McCaw was going to return to the Crusaders for their final matches so he could be ready in theory even when France played the All Blacks, but head coach Steve Hansen said this arrangement suited McCaw the best.

"He won't be there even if someone falls over," All Black coach Steve Hansen said to the NZ Herald.

"That means there is no pressure on him to get back into training now.

"I want him to stay away!"

Hansen however had no concerns regarding McCaw's physical condition, with the head coach trusting in his 116-Test veteran.

"He will be in good shape when he gets back, there is no way he would let himself go," he said.

"This is all about him getting a huge mental rest and being excited and ready when he wants to return."

McCaw triggered a sabbatical clause in his contract after his 116th test cap on last year's All Black tour to Europe with the aim of going to the next World Cup in Europe in 2015.

Settling on a caretaker All Black captain for the three June tests against France and the makeup of a wider training group are the next tasks for the national selectors.

Senior leaders litter the Super Rugby series with Andrew Hore, Kieran Read, Daniel Carter, Conrad Smith, Liam Messam, Ali Williams and Keven Mealamu all filling that category.

Mealamu, Hore and Read have captained the All Blacks in McCaw's absence and providing Read recovers from his toe injury, he looms as the logical successor.

Not that Hansen would be drawn on the decision.

"The question we have to ask ourselves is do we go for someone who will definitely be there for the World Cup or someone who logic says may be a 50-50 chance to be there."

A more immediate task is to pick a group of about 35-40 players for camps at Mt Maunganui on successive weekends in late May.

"We will be looking at players getting clarity about their work and getting to see some players we are not very familiar with," said Hansen.

"We may leave out some senior players we know about or who need time at home.

"The camp will help some of the newer ones get rid of the stars in their eyes look and give us an insight into their makeup."

It would be a great chance to work with some All Blacks who were out of form.

"We need to get them up to speed and find out why they are out of form," said Hansen.

"We need to know can we fix it or is their race run? Is their international time done or do we work hard to sort them out?"

Sources: NZ Herald & NZ Newswire

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