McCaw still 'good enough'

Fri, 09 Aug 2013 12:11
Large richie mccaw   steve hansen Large richie mccaw training match Large dan carter peeps over scrum

All Black coach Steve Hansen had no hesitation in declaring captain Richie McCaw 'good to go', ahead of next week's opening round in the Rugby Championship.

All Black coach Steve Hansen had no hesitation in declaring captain Richie McCaw 'good to go', ahead of next week's opening round in the Rugby Championship.

McCaw looked a touch short of fitness about 20 minutes into a practice match against Canterbury and Wellington, in Wellington, on Friday.

However, Hansen was satisfied his captain would be good to lead New Zealand against Australia in the opening Rugby Championship clash in Sydney next Saturday, August 17.

McCaw has only recently returned to the game, after a six-month sabbatical, and was expected to play the full 80 minutes of the practice at the Hutt Recreation Ground.

However, the 32-year-old left the field after the opening 40 minutes against Canterbury and did not appear in the second 40-minute session against Wellington.

At one stage, during the first half, he appeared to be sucking in plenty of air, with both hands anchored to his hips.

Hookers Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore deputised at openside flanker for the second session.

"I don't think he's going to be good enough, I know he's good enough," Hansen told a media briefing afterwards.

"We just wanted him to have a good 40," Hansen said, despite earlier suggestion that McCaw would get a full 80 minutes.

Since ending his six-month sabbatical, McCaw has played in just three games. He returned to the game in a club match and then made two appearances off the bench for the Crusaders, including the semifinal loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago.

"Energy-wise, he felt pretty good and could have gone on and played more, but just the 40 was enough," Hansen said.

McCaw himself was just happy to be back out on the field.

"For me, it's trying to make sure I get up to speed and get the feel of the game again," he said.

"Fitness-wise, there's a bit of running there - I certainly burnt a bit, but it wasn't too bad. The big thing is getting your timing, and I'll be better for that run-around."

McCaw says the physicality of both matches would benefit the All Blacks as they ease into the last week of training before the Rugby Championship.

There were a few battered and bruised bodies at the end, with Blues pair Steven Luatua and Francis Saili among those who limped off as the second 40 minutes against Wellington progressed.

"A few guys, myself especially, hadn't played for a while. We didn't get too carried away with how we were going to play, it was just a matter of getting some contact and getting through some footy," McCaw said.

Hansen said the match had been productive in giving several players whose teams had not made the Super Rugby play-offs game time before the Rugby Championship.

"That's exactly what we came for. We wanted a game that ebbed and flowed with intensity and physicality.

"We have had guys out for three or four weeks so we weren't too bothered by structures or skill execution it was more about getting out there and having 80 minutes on the track."

The new scrum laws, which are designed to nullify the initial impact, promote scrummaging and reduce the number of collapses were also used though neither of the three sides appeared to be able to get the hang of the new procedure.

The first scrum was reset three times and the provincial teams were constantly penalised, though Hansen said he felt that was because they were unable to hold the All Blacks front row up. McCaw, and then Kieran Read against Wellington, opted for more scrums.

"I think you can't expect it to be perfect straight away," McCaw said.

"From our point of view we need to keep working on it and making sure that we get better each time we get out there.

"We have taken away things that we need to work on and that's good."

McCaw said he would also take away things to work on, while the team would also attempt to improve their execution rate throughout the week after the game on Friday was littered with errors.

"It served a purpose. I would say we got a fair bit out of that," he added.

"A few guys haven't played in a while, myself included so it was about getting a run around.

"It was nice to get through 40 and hopefully ... just need a week's training, I'll be good to go."