McCaw aims to thrive on pressure
September 18, 2009
All Blacks coach Graham Henry chats to his captain Richie McCaw during training in Wellington © Getty Images
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has backed his side to bounce back from losing their Tri-Nations crown and prevent an unprecedented third home defeat in a year with victory over Australia this weekend.
The All Blacks record of just four wins from eight Tests in 2009 is not only their worst return in six years but also leaves them dangerously close to replicating the infamous years of 1949 and 1998 where they lost six and five matches respectively.
Adding further concern is the fact that New Zealand have never been beaten three times at home in one year. They have already lost twice, at the hands of France in June and last weekend against South Africa, but McCaw believes his team are under no more pressure than usual heading into Saturday's clash in Wellington.
"Any time you play in the All Blacks there is some (pressure) there, and it's a question of how you deal with it," he said. "You can't allow that to get on top of you. You've got to keep the belief in what you're doing. Obviously after a result like we had last week, the guys are pretty eager to get back out on the field and put it right."
The All Blacks have beaten Australia twice this year and retained the Bledisloe Cup but could end their campaign as Tri-Nations wooden-spooners if they fail against the Wallabies in the third of four scheduled clashes this year against their old rivals.
"The guys are pretty proud sort of men and they want to go out and put a good performance together for their mates beside them first and foremost," added McCaw. "If you do that right for your mates and yourselves you end up doing it right for everyone else - the coaches, the fans and everyone."
"What's happened in the past doesn't count for too much. We've got a plan in place of how we want to play this week and we're pretty keen to make sure we do it right from the word go - and we don't give them a 10-point start or 12-point start, or whatever it was last week.
"The big thing that we know is we've got a bunch of guys who will keep going until the end - and we realise to win Tests you've got to do that."
The All Blacks will take some confidence from the fact Australia have not won on New Zealand soil since 2001.
"I guess you always believe that what you're going to put out on the field, if you can execute it, you'll be good enough to win - and I'm sure they will be exactly the same," said McCaw. "When you get behind on the scoreboard or things don't go your way, guys don't give up and they still fight right to the last minute. It's pleasing to know you've got a bunch of characters who will do that. It would be nice to go into the final 20 minutes and be up some points rather than down. That's going to be the aim tomorrow."
All Blacks coach Graham Henry and his assistants Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have born the brunt of much of the criticism aimed at the side this year. And Smith gave an insight into the pressure he feels, and how much it would mean personally to right the All Blacks ship that has listed unceremoniously this year.
"It dominates your life. It's dominated my life for a lot of years. It's dominated my family's life so it's not something you take flippantly... it's something you live for,'' he said. "Things will change in the future, we'll go back to other priorities but right now, it's the centre of our being and we care deeply about it.'
McCaw admitted that he can't fathom why so much invective is directed towards the coaching team.
"It seems to be the way in this country that they get it in the neck. They're not the ones that are running out on the field,'' McCaw said. "They've been great this week, they haven't allowed any of that to come through to the team.''
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery
"England remind me of a PlayStation rugby team," John Mitchell on tactics and the search for a first-choice fly-half ahead of the World Cup
Augustine Pulu will return home with little more than 20 minutes rugby in one month on tour. It is time for more midweek games writes Craig Dowd