Before we start treating an All Blacks victory in Brisbane as a fait accompli its worth considering a few things.
It is true that the Wallabies are in a state of disarray, and must be vulnerable.
Their legacy of player power has come back to bite them, and it is extraordinary that their captain should be publically defending a repeat offending player ahead of the team unit, and by extension the coach.
Ewen McKenzie has tried to take a firm line in the past, but despite his strong actions on the end of year tour last year has been unable to instil a sense of no nonsense in the team.
Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University. Two years ago Richie McCaw stood here in the middle of a huddle and gave his team both barrels.
They were hot, jet lagged, exhausted. Training was flat. With a few expletives thrown in, McCaw told them he didn’t care. He motioned to his head; now was the time to be mentally tough.
In this moment McCaw encapsulated his importance. His men, for the record, responded the following day with one of their best performances on South African soil, thumping the Springboks 32-16.
That McCaw is still producing those same speeches when necessary, still passing on the same mental edge, still walking them through the finer details the day before a test, is reassuring.
Richie McCaw will add another line to his long list of achievements on Saturday by matching Colin Meads as the most capped All Black ever.
The New Zealand captain will equal Meads’ record of 133 All Black appearances in La Plata against Argentina, in what will be his 132nd Test.
McCaw’s only non-Test appearance for the All Blacks came in 2009 when he captained the side against the Barbarians.
By contrast Meads, whose New Zealand career lasted 14 years from 1957-71, earned just 55 caps for his country, but featured a further 78 times for New Zealand.
The All Blacks may have been grounded in Auckland overnight after their flight to Santiago was cancelled, but their ambitions remain sky-high as they look to keep alive an unbeaten run dating back to November, 2012.
Former coach Sir Graham Henry created a few ripples when he suggested the world champions could do with some adversity ahead of their defence of the global crown next year in England.
Henry spoke of the benefits that come from regathering the forces following a defeat and wondered aloud if the All Blacks, who have lost only one test under Steve Hansen, might be the better for the introspection that follows a loss.
It came as an innocuous question from an All Black supporter on Twitter, but it summed up the feeling after Saturday’s epic Springboks-All Blacks test in Wellington.
“After that, don’t you wish Ellis Park could be next week?” he asked. The answer is a big resounding yes.
It wasn’t because we lost and wanted revenge. It wasn’t because the Boks will be kicking themselves for coming so close against the World Champions.
The All Blacks say South Africa have returned to their time-wasting antics, at the same ground where they first accused them of feigning injuries eight years ago.
Senior New Zealand players voiced their concern at the number of Springboks who sought medical treatment during the All Blacks 14-10 win in Wellington on Saturday.
Captain Richie McCaw and No 8 Kieran Read regularly remonstrated with French referee Jerome Garces, believing the tourists were deliberately slowing the speed of the Test to nullify New Zealand’s high-speed approach.
Yellow cards have been an unwanted feature of the All Blacks’ recent tests and Richie McCaw says enough is enough.
The All Blacks captain was one of the chief offenders when the All Blacks belted the Wallabies 51-20 at Eden Park a fortnight ago, having been sent to the sin-bin by French referee Romain Poite for needlessly playing the ball on the ground.
Ben Franks also copped a yellow card in the Auckland match and Wyatt Crockett and Beauden Barrett took an enforced rest against the Aussies in the first Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.
Another Test, another couple of world records for All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
The veteran flanker scored two tries, the third double of his 129-Test career, as New Zealand pummelled the Wallabies 51-20 in Auckland to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
In doing so, he took his tally to 23 tries, the most in Tests by any forward from a tier-one nation.
The previous record was 22, scored by former Wales No 8 Colin Charvis.
McCaw, 33, also holds the record for the most tries by any player against a tier-one opponent, surpassing a number of prolific outside backs.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen disagrees Richie McCaw is a fading force but insists neither he, nor his captain, will be afraid to make the right call to end his illustrious career.
On either side of the Tasman, there are growing concerns an ageing McCaw won’t make it to next year’s World Cup.
The past few years has seen Rugby’s world be dominated by one group of Villains that we have come to respect, hate, admire, deride, sledge and applaud. Let’s take a look at these Bad Guys and their alter-egos – whilst not forgetting that most of these guys eventually get their comeuppance. – Enjoy!
15. Ben Smith -Keyser Soze – The usual Suspects
This is one of those moments where we are lulled into a false sense of security. The guy looks harmless enough and seems to melt into the background when surrounded by other more unsavory types. But it is with the Big reveal that things unfold and the manipulator truly emerges.
The New Zealand media is an unforgiving animal, pouncing at the very first sight of a potential weakness.
In the wake of a rare draw, after a 17-Test winning run, the question is now being raised: ‘Is this All Black team on the slide?’
NZ Herald columnist Chris Rattue suggested the All Blacks appeared to have peaked and are now sliding towards rugby mortality – where the rest of the world resides.
“Are these All Blacks any longer the indomitable force that we like to portray them as?,” Rattue suggested.
The All Blacks were left feeling “hollow” and “gutted” after their record-equalling test win streak came to a limp end on Saturday night at the Olympic stadium.
To that they might have added relieved at escaping with a draw they scarcely deserved.
Truth be told, the All Blacks were fortunate indeed to slip out of Sydney with a 12-12 stalemate that was flattering to them, after being outplayed in the second half by a Wallabies outfit who just weren’t good enough to close out a victory that was theirs for the taking.
All Blacks centre Conrad Smith is out of tomorrow’s Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney after returning home for the birth of his first child.
Smith will join wife Lee-Ann in Wellington, with Canterbury midfielder Ryan Crotty called in as cover and likely to start from the bench. Malakai Fekitoa is expected to take Smith’s spot at centre outside Ma’a Nonu.
Two of the Crusaders’ favourite sons were ironically also their own worst enemies during an epic Super Rugby final last night, as Richie McCaw and Andrew Mehrtens both made significant contributions to the Waratahs’ historic triumph.
The All Blacks captain was a focal point of the Waratahs’ match-winning penalty in the final minute at ANZ Stadium while Mehrtens – who famously confirmed the Crusaders third title in Canberra in 2000 with a coolly taken three-pointer – played a more peripheral role in the Waratahs dramatic 33-32 victory.
Ultimately it was Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley who took centre stage by directing his seventh successful penalty attempt just clear of the crossbar with less than 30 seconds to play in a contest that completed the Waratahs resurrection as the dominant force in Australian rugby.
It couldn’t be a more familiar sight. The Crusaders, Super Rugby’s most successful team, arriving to play in another final and Richie McCaw, the most capped All Black ever, sporting a freshly stitched gash under his eye.
The team from Christchurch is after its eighth title and, even away from home, bookmakers are taking three times the money from punters on a Crusaders win.
The Crusaders have history on their side, having beaten the Waratahs in two previous Super Rugby finals.
But this time they are in Sydney, where they haven’t played all season, and McCaw is paying no attention to past records.
Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw knows from past experience, both sweet and bitter, that a crucial moment can decide Saturday’s Super Rugby final result against the Waratahs in Sydney.
“When it comes down to one or two moments, the teams that are good enough to take those opportunities are the ones that win,” the All Blacks captain said.
“If you drop your guard for one or two moments, you’ll come second.”
He will be making his eighth Super final appearance, the first being in 2002 against the Waratahs when the Crusaders won the competition for the fourth time.
For Richie McCaw the job of preparing for big rugby matches should be as simple as flicking dust off his shoes.
That, he says, is nonsense – the anxiety will never go away.
Despite playing 113 tests, appearing in three World Cups and making 137 appearances for the Crusaders, the 33-year-old flanker still finds himself burning-off nervous energy ahead of crucial matches such as Saturday night’s Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs in Sydney.
New Zealand exhales. Turns out rumours of the decline of Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter have been greatly exaggerated.
McCaw and Carter both produced timely high-quality performances in Christchurch tonight as the Crusaders won through to their 11th – yes, 11th – Super Rugby final with a 38-6 dismantling of the Sharks. The Red ‘n Blacks are now 80 minutes away from their eighth championship – but notably a first since 2008.
On a night when Kieran Read illuminated the big occasion with a stellar demonstration of his remarkable quality, and Fijian find of the year Nemani Nadolo was equally as destructive, the old soldiers McCaw and Carter were not a million miles off the standard set by the best player in the world.
With Read, this sort of stuff is as predictable as it is enjoyable. He is a colossus of the game completely at the peak of his powers. His every minute on the field these days is to be savoured.
He endured the pain of a broken bone in his foot during the 2011 World Cup but Richie McCaw said that was a doddle compared to playing with a fractured rib.
All Blacks captain McCaw hurt his rib in the second test against England on May June 14 and, thinking it was just bruising, he ignored the discomfort to play the third test a week later.
During that match, however, McCaw knew something was seriously wrong.
“By the end of that third test I was pretty sore. With an injured foot it doesn’t hurt when you go into contact – it is only when you are running.”
All Black captain Richie McCaw is likely to start for the Crusaders in their Super Rugby Semi-Final against the Sharks in Christchurch on Saturday.
McCaw, who has not played since fracturing a rib while captaining the All Blacks against England last month, took part in the Crusaders’ training session on Monday.
Assistant coach Tabai Matson said that McCaw only needed to emerge unscathed from training over the next two days to confirm his place in the side for the match at AMI Stadium.
The return of Richie McCaw to the Crusaders for their semifinal next Saturday will present coach Todd Blackadder with a dilemma. Where to play him?
For Blackadder, it is a good problem to have, but someone within the hard-working and talented loose forward trio of Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua and Kieran Read is about to be disappointed, and it isn’t likely to be No8 Read, judged last year as the world’s best player.
The Crusaders are on track to have All Black captain Richie McCaw fully recovered in time for their Super Rugby semifinal.
Their convincing victory over the Highlanders in Christchurch at the weekend has secured the Red and Blacks top spot on the New Zealand conference, meaning they’ll miss the first round of the play-offs this coming Saturday.
Coach Todd Blackadder has told Newstalk ZB that McCaw is recovering well and should make for a timely return from a rib injury.
“He’s probably a week away,” Blackadder said.
“He probably would be ready to take contact at the end of this week and so he’ll be ready for that.”
The Crusaders have confirmed that an x-ray revealed that Richie McCaw has a broken rib.
It is believed the rib injury was sustained in the second All Blacks test against England and is likely to keep McCaw out of contention for the next 3-4 weeks; a bitter blow for the Cantabrians who are pushing for top spot on the Super Rugby table.
Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder said that while McCaw’s presence will clearly be missed over the next few weeks, the team is fully focussed on the task at hand.
The New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed on Tuesday the All Blacks will travel to take on the USA in Chicago on 1 November.
The world’s best will take on their American counterparts at the 61,000-seater Solider Field stadium, home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears.
Though rumours and speculation regarding this fixture have bubbled away for nearly six months, it was only on Tuesday that the match was publicly announced as the Kiwis’ newest overseas initiative, with the purposes of drawing on the developing market – boasting huge potential – in the USA, generating a ballpark figure of at least $1 million NZ dollars for the NZRU, and offering the Test side important preparation for the subsequent fixtures in Europe.
Head coach Todd Blackadder has named a side with 5 changes as the Crusaders head to Brisbane on Friday to face the Reds on Sunday afternoon.
Corey Flynn will be the starting hooker this week and Ben Funnell will take a spot on the reserve bench. Lock Luke Romano has come off the pine to start at No 4 alongside Sam Whitelock.
All Black captain Richie McCaw will make his long-awaited return to the playing field against the Brumbies in Christchurch on Saturday.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder named a team that shows five changes to the starting fifteen that beat the Chiefs two weeks ago.
McCaw has recovered from his fractured thumb to return to the starting line-up.
After a rocky start to the Super Rugby season, the stars are aligning for Todd Blackadder’s Crusaders with Richie McCaw set to return from a long injury layoff and help drive the side toward the playoffs.
The All Black skipper has been sidelined with a broken thumb for the past two months but may ease back into the action off the bench against the high-flying Brumbies in Christchurch on Saturday.
Richie McCaw faces up to eight weeks on the sidelines after breaking his thumb in the Crusaders’ defeat to the Blues at Eden Park on Friday.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder will have a selection headache to deal with while choosing his side to play the Blues on Friday.
The seven-times champions underperformed in last week’s 10-18 reverse at the hands of the Chiefs and the performance is certain to result in flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal’s axing, with Colin Slade now available, but it is how Blackadder re-jigs the rest of his team that remains a mystery.
There was a mixed bag on the selection front for the Crusaders on Monday – Kieran Read set to return, but Richie McCaw likely to be ruled out.
McCaw is in doubt for Friday’s Round Three encounter against the Blues at Eden Park.
The openside flank is nursing a tender calf, after the Crusaders’ 10-18-10 loss to the Chiefs at Christchurch Stadium at the weekend.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw says he is unlikely to continue his international rugby career after the 2015 World Cup.
This weekend sees the start of Super Rugby, but only with 2 games in South Africa. For the rest of the Super Rugby Francises, including all New Zealand and Australian franchises, it’s another weekend of preparation matches for Super Rugby.
In New Zealand, the Hurricanes report that Tim Bateman has suffered a grade one medial knee ligament injury at training and will miss 2 to 6 weeks of rugby. Also in New Zealand the Crusaders have named Richie McCaw on the bench for their warm-up encounter with the Hurricanes.
In Australia, the Reds have made some changes amongst their props, with James Slipper in at loosehead and Greg Holmes in at tighthead and a few changes were made in the backline too, for their warm-up clash against the Melbourne Rebels. Also in Australia, Hugh McMeniman returns from injury and will run out for the Force A side to face the Pampas XV and Samoa A.
The Crusaders look set to start their 2014 campaign without two of the most influential players in the world – Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.
It has already been confirmed that Read will miss the Crusaders’ Super Rugby opener against the Chiefs on 21 February.
All Black captain Richie McCaw may be moved around by the Crusaders this season, according to coach Todd Blackadder.
It appears Matt Todd is the preferred choice at No 7 for the Crusaders and when he returns from a chest injury next month, McCaw may well be wearing another number on his back.
More than 600 delegates and 30 exhibitors representing nearly 120 countries are attending the inaugural IRB World Rugby Conference and Exhibition in Dublin, which will be opened officially by IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset at 1.45pm today.