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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

A host of Crusaders could be playing their last ever Super Rugby match in Christchurch as the 7-time champs play host to the Reds this Friday.

Tom Taylor, Colin Slade, Dan Carter and Willi Heinz have all announced that they will be heading offshore after this season and Richie McCaw has also indicated that it could be his final season, which means it could be the last chance for Christchurch fans to see them in action for the Crusaders.

Friday night marks the team’s final game in Christchurch this season, unless they qualify for the Finals Series and earn the right to host.

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Richie McCaw, struggling to get up

Richie McCaw, struggling to get up

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw is “unlikely” to feature for the Crusaders in Saturday’s Super Rugby show down with the Hurricanes.

The Crusaders flanker was concussed in his team’s 14-point win over the Blues in Round 11 and will undergo tests over the coming days to determine his availability for the game against the competition leaders.

But Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said no risks would be taken, and with the World Cup 4 months away, McCaw is likely to be given a week off.

“If he’s not right, there’s no way he will play, Richie,” Blackadder said.

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has noted that Crusaders flank Richie McCaw is getting caught out more by referees.

McCaw was penalised a few times in his side’s 31 / 19 Super Rugby defeat to the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday night.

Mallett analysed the game in the SuperSport studio afterwards.

He said: “Richie McCaw was penalised 3 or 4 times. He’s just getting caught by referees now for doing the things that he’s been doing so effectively over the last 5 to 10 years.

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CrusadersCrusaders coach Todd Blackadder wasted no time in bringing back All Black captain Richie McCaw for his team’s Super Rugby Round 7 encounter with the Vodacom Bulls.

The 7-time champion Crusaders start their South African tour against the 3-time champion Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

McCaw, who was rested last week as the Crusaders demolished the Cheetahs 57 / 14, replaces Matt Todd at openside flank – with the latter dropping down to the replacement bench.

In all Blackadder made 5 changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Loftus Versfeld.

Blackadder has made 2 rotations in the front row, with prop Joe Moody and hooker Ben Funnell coming in for All Black Wyatt Crockett and Codie Taylor respectively. Crockett and Taylor both drop to the bench.

Dan Carter, who last week started at inside centre, returns to his more customary role in the No 10 jersey.

Tom Taylor moves out one position to No 12 and Colin Slade will play off the bench.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

All Black skipper Richie McCaw on Thursday dropped the strongest hint yet he will retire after this year’s World Cup in England and bring his glittering career to an end.

The 34-year-old captain of New Zealand, the reigning World Cup champions, admitted he was considering hanging up his boots, but was not yet ready to make a definitive announcement, preferring to focus on the ongoing Super Rugby season with the Crusaders.

“Honestly, I haven’t made any final decision, but probably the likelihood is I’m not going to be playing next year,” McCaw said at a Crusaders training session, in comments published on New Zealand Rugby’s official website.

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CrusadersThe Crusaders will open the 2015 Super Rugby season this Friday night when they host the Melbourne Rebels in Christchurch.

Richie McCaw will start for the Crusaders for the first time in 2015, in one of 3 changes that head coach Todd Blackadder has made to the starting line-up that played a warm-up game against the Reds in Brisbane last week.

The other changes are Joe Moody starting at No 1 and Ben Funnell at hooker.

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Tony Johnson

Tony Johnson

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.

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Richie McCaw

FIRE STILL THERE: During the All Blacks’ last four tests, the captain Richie McCaw proved his leadership qualities stand above all others.

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.

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Colin Meads

The great Colin Meads

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.

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Steve Hansen

TOTAL FOCUS: Steve Hansen knows a thing of two about leadership.

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.

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Richie McCaw & Jean de Villiers

Respect on and off the field. Richie McCaw making a special presentation to Jean de Villiers.

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.

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Keven Mealamu & Richie McCaw

Senior All Blacks, including Richie McCaw (R), were heard complaining to the referee during the match.

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.

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Richie McCaw

FOCUSED: All Blacks captain Richie McCaw takes a pass during a training session at McLean Park in Napier.

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.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw being congratulated by Aaron Cruden

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.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw, does he still have plenty to offer?

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.

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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
Keyser Soze

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.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

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.

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New ZealandThe 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.

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New ZealandAll 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.

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Richie McCaw

PRETTY ANNOYED: Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw was hurting after he gave away the match-winning penalty to the Waratahs.

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.

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Richie McCaw eyes toughest of Sydney test

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.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

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.

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Richie McCaw

GOOD NERVES: He may have 113 Tests, 3 World Cups and 137 appearances for the Crusaders to his name, but All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw still gets anxious before the big matches.

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.

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Richie McCaw & Nemani Nadolo

STILL GOT IT: Crusaders and All Blacks veteran Richie McCaw celebrates a great night for the franchise with Fijian flier Nemani Nadolo.

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.

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Richie McCaw

TOUGH AS TEAK: Richie McCaw

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.”

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

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.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw is expected to be declared fit for next week’s semi final clash

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.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

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.”

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

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.

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All BlacksUSAThe 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.

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Richie McCawCrusadersAfter 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.

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CrusadersTodd BlackadderCrusaders 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.

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