All Blacks’ captain McCaw ‘will be ready’

2011-10-13 07:25

New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen has given the assurance that the All Black captain Richie McCaw will be ready to lead his side against Australia in their Rugby World Cup semifinal at Eden Park on Sunday.

McCaw is suffering from a foot injury and flanker Matt Todd’s presence at the All Blacks’ training yesterday has fuelled speculation that he was going to replace McCaw. But Hansen has denied that this is the case.

“Richie McCaw’s foot is fine,” Hansen said at the team hotel today.

“Matt Todd is part of our wider training group and trained with us in Christchurch as did other players down there. We’ve had wider training group players come in for training at all the venues. You may have seen Robbie Fruean in Wellington, as well as Christchurch.

“Matt Todd is in Auckland and it just made common sense to have him here. Now that doesn’t mean to say that Richie’s foot is any worse than it was, it doesn’t mean that Richie is not playing on Saturday, it just means that Matt Todd was in Auckland and that we wanted to use him for training as opposition.”

On whether Richie McCaw would train in the lead-up to Sunday’s semifinal against Australia, he said: “He didn’t train last week on the pitch, and he probably won’t train on the pitch until probably the captain’s run and he’ll do very little.”

Hansen says he doesn’t think McCaw’s restricted training will affect his match performances:
“I don’t think so. I think he played pretty well last week. It was a tough game last week for loose forwards I thought because the Pumas were outstanding defensively and got a lot of numbers in the breakdown. It was a tough game and I thought he played well.”

Hansen believes they have enough depth of cover for the loose forward position in the squad given the injury concerns over Richie McCaw (foot) and Adam Thomson (ankle).

“We’re very happy where we are with our loose forwards. Our loose forwards have got niggles but I’d suggest the other three sides, they’d all have niggles. That’s what tournament rugby is about, the fittest stay the strongest and longest.”

On the key to preparing for do-or-die rugby, Hansen said: “I’d like to say do rather than die. It’s a massive game, clearly, and the winner gets to carry on.

“The preparation’s got to be dead set genuine and you’ve got to take yourself to the right places mentally and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got your game plan clarity right.

“Once you’ve got clarity you can have intensity and purpose about what you do and that gives you accuracy as well.

“If we can get those things tidied up, then we get on the track on Sunday night and it’s going to be all on.”
Hansen says it is not only the All Blacks that are feeling the pressure in the lead up to the semifinals.

“Everyone feels pressure. It’s how you react to it that’s the key. We’re really excited and looking forward to the challenge of the semifinal. It doesn’t get any bigger.”

He believes it will be a big loss to Australia if their exciting full back, Kurtley Beale, is unable to play on the weekend.

“It’d be a big blow I’d say. I think he’s a top player and he gives them a lot from the back. But they’ve got a bit of depth haven’t they, so they’ll probably find someone that can squeeze into the 15 jersey and give it a pretty good shot,” he said.

On whether there is an extra edge to the semifinal against Australia, given that New Zealander Robbie Deans (who is from New Zealand) is coaching the Wallabies, he said: “No. It might be for Robbie, but it’s not for us.”

Hansen, who coached the Welsh team before says it doesn’t matter who he coaches and the same would apply for Robbie Deans.

“There is always a sense of pride about what he you’re doing and that’s the same whether you are or aren’t coaching the All Blacks. It’s like playing your brother, a family member, it becomes a little bit personal I guess and you really want to be successful.

“I’m sure that’s how Robbie’s feeling. But he’s done it plenty of times now so he’s pretty used to the feeling,” he said.

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