Kiwis expect McCaw to last
July 15, 2009
Steve Hansen and Richie McCaw celebrate after last November's win over Wales © Getty Images
Fit-again New Zealand captain Richie McCaw will be asked to play the full 80 minutes in Saturday's Tri-Nations opener against Australia.
McCaw was forced to sit out his country's opening three fixtures of the new season with a knee injury and only made his return to competitive rugby last weekend, lining up for his club side Christchurch for the first time in eight years in order to secure some much-needed game time.
However, All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen is in no doubt that McCaw is capable of making an immediate step up in class.
"We expect him to play the 80 (minutes)," Hansen said ahead of the game in Auckland. "He's done it before, he's our leader and we want him on the park. He's trained well, he's confident he can go 80 and I'm confident he's got the mental aptitude to do that as well."
Given that McCaw is the only specialist openside in the All Blacks' 22 for Saturday's meeting with the Wallabies, it would appear imperative that the Crusaders ace lasts the entire game.
However, Australia boss Robbie Deans, who has included three openside flankers in his match squad in an obvious attempt to put sustained pressure on the returning McCaw, believes that New Zealand are not as reliant on their skipper as many believe.
"They've got a number of players who can cover that role (openside flanker): Rodney So'oialo has been used there previously; Kieran Read has done it occasionally as well," Deans said. "They don't have specialist cover in that area but they've obviously got players who they believe can do that job."
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown