McCaw backs coaching shakeup
October 18, 2009
Richie McCaw has backed Graham Henry's coaching reshuffle © Getty Images
Richie McCaw has backed the All Blacks' coaching reshuffle, insisting that a fresh approach may be exactly what is needed after a challenging Tri-Nations campaign.
The skipper was consulted by Graham Henry over the changes, which will see former forwards coach Steve Hansen take over attack duties from Wayne Smith and Smith inheriting defensive responsibilities from Henry. Henry will pitch in with the forwards.
The All Blacks kick off a tough end-of-year tour against the Wallabies in Tokyo on October 31, before showdowns with Wales, England, France and Italy.
"Certainly they talked to us about how we could change things up a little bit without being too drastic," the skipper told reporters after the squad's first hit-out in Auckland. "We had a discussion about it with the senior players. A different voice has got to be good. I think the senior players, well all the players, have got to take responsibility too."
The All Black pack has struggled this season, being outmuscled by the Springboks, and their lineout has at times been a horror-show. McCaw insists that the shake-up is not simply a means to shift Hansen away from the forwards role however.
"Obviously the three coaches have all decided that that's what was needed. If you look at the line-out at the last Test we always believed that it wasn't far wrong. What we're going to do now isn't going to be a lot different at all," McCaw said. "I don't think that has got much to do with it. Steve is a back himself and has some great ideas about how to play. I think it's a great way to have the same sort of thing but a different way of putting it across."
The squad will remain in Auckland for two further days of training before heading to Tokyo, with Henry believing that there is a new focus in the squad as players and coaches alike look to prove themselves.
"I think players and coaches and the whole group want to prove themselves, so there was probably a wee bit more tension, and a little bit more focus," Henry said. "Remember we went to Hong Kong last year off the back of winning the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup and felt pretty good. We were lucky to get through that game and then went on and had a Grand Slam."
Henry is targeting the Test against the Wallabies, hoping that his side can set the tone for a successful tour before looking to extend their mammoth winning run against Wales in Cardiff. The All Blacks boss is sure that Australia will be gunning for a win in Japan after losing all three Tri-Nations Tests against their Trans-Tasman rivals.
"They're going to be at their best mentally aren't they for this game. They've also made a change of captain, and when you make changes like that it creates a little upward movement on the graph, so I think Rocky [Elsom] will be good," he said.
"It means senior players overlooked for those senior roles want to prove themselves and its 3-0 so they'll be at the peak of their powers mentally, and we've got to handle that. I think if we can set that foundation for the first game you get the momentum going. The Welsh game second up and the Australia game, I think, are critical as to how we go on this tour."
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