McCaw in 'pretty good shape'
All Black captain Richie McCaw looks set to be fit for New Zealand's opening match of the Rugby Championship, against Australia.
All Black captain Richie McCaw looks set to be fit for New Zealand's opening match of the Rugby Championship, against Australia in Sydney on August 17.
Coach Steve Hansen said he was "satisfied" with the fitness of McCaw, who returns to the All Black fold after two Super Rugby cameos of 15 and 10 minutes in the last fortnight - following a six-month sabbatical.
McCaw reportedly suffered a sore neck during his brief appearance off the bench for the Crusaders when they lost their Super semifinal to the Chiefs 19-20 at the weekend, but Hansen was not concerned.
"He's in pretty good shape," the coach said.
"By the time it gets to August 17 he'll have had two more games, so at this point he's coming along nicely."
Those games will be two 40-minutes outings for the All Blacks against Wellington and Canterbury provincial teams in Wellington on August 9.
"Well he's had a club game with a full 80 minutes there and a couple of cameos with the Crusaders," Hansen told ONE Sport.
"He'll get a good 80 minutes with us against the two teams we're playing in Wellington, that Canterbury XV and a Wellington XV, so that will be enough I'd say.
"He's pretty fit, he's done a lot of work, and he's confident himself that he's fit enough. So if he's confident there's no better judge than him. He knows his body much better than most people so that will be good enough for me.
"He's got a bit of a sore neck so we'll just take it quietly with that at the camp and see how it responds and see what happens from there."
* Meanwhile Blockbusting midfielder Ma'a Nonu remained in the All Black spotlight Monday despite an uncertain future after being out of favour with all five New Zealand Super 15 franchises.
Nonu was named in a 30-man training squad to take part in a two-day camp this week before the Rugby Championship squad is named next Sunday.
The squad does not include members of the Chiefs who will play the Brumbies in the Super Rugby Final at Hamilton on Saturday.
However, it does include Rene Ranger even though the Blues outside back is off to France at the end of the year.
"We've always said we'd pick the best players available and at this point he [Ranger] is still available," said Hansen.
After a series of mediocre performances this year, his latest patron, Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, had no option but to bench Nonu part way through the season.
Although he did offer the 79-Test veteran a berth for another year it was not picked up.
Nonu's troubles started two years ago when he was not wanted by new Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett for the underachieving side.
That sparked a move to the Blues last year where he ended the season with a handshake agreement saying he would stay and then promptly moved to the Highlanders.
Blues coach John Kirwan said he no longer has room for Nonu and the two franchises the number 12 has not played for - the Chiefs and Crusaders - say he is not an option.
When Hammett was asked if he would take Nonu back his reply of "I'd never say never" made clear it was not high on his wish list.
But while the Super franchises do not want Nonu, the All Blacks need him as the only battle-hardened inside centre in the selection frame.
The New Zealand Rugby Union has been reluctant to comment on the dilemma but issued a short statement recently indicating there was some behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.
"He is obviously weighing up the options that he has and we continue to talk to him about those as we see him as critical to the continued success of the All Blacks," NZRU rugby operations manager Neil Sorensen said.
The 28-man Rugby Championship squad will be named on August 4, with the opening Rugby Championship match against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 17.
Sources: ONE Sport & AFP