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South Africa v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, Soweto, August 21
McCaw denies All Blacks get an easy ride
Scrum.com
August 19, 2010
New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw breaks away to score, Australia v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, Australia, July 31, 2010
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has already secured one piece of silverware this year in the form of the Bledisloe Cup © Getty Images
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All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has dismissed suggestions that his side have been getting a favourable ride from referees in this year's Tri-Nations.

Statistics published this week appeared to show that New Zealand are treated differently by officials compared to their southern hemisphere rivals Australian and South Africa. Figures based on the opening five games of this year's title race show the Springboks are the most regularly penalised, conceding six penalties per yellow card while the Wallabies' figure is just seven a card. But official figures show that the All Blacks incur an incredible 43 penalties per yellow card.

But McCaw believes the figures do not tell the whole story. "My point of view is that there has been no disparity in the refereeing. People put stats out and then come to a conclusion, but the statistics don't give the full picture," he said. "If we feel we are close to a yellow card, then we back off and we don't give away a penalty in that facet again. If you're on the borderline, then you back off, if you're warned about something then you adapt. That's what I make sure I do personally and the team does too. I would be very frustrated if we did not learn from how the referee is blowing, you'd be an idiot not to change if you've been warned."

McCaw's ubiquitous presence at the breakdown has caused his opponents to call for stricter policing of the All Blacks' talisman, claiming that he is often guilty of sealing off the ball, slowing down their possession and disrupting the flow of their game. But McCaw says these criticisms of his play do not wash.

"I think since the start of the Super 14 we have gone back to having a good contest at the breakdown. The change of habit, getting the tackler out of the way, has been a good thing. But if the ball-carrier is isolated and I arrive on my feet then I should get the benefit. The same applies for the team with ball in hand if their support does arrive. If players do the right thing at the breakdowns then teams can play. The big thing is to adapt to what is being blown because no referee is identical."

The Cantabrian said the team that managed to dominate up front would go a long way to winning the Tri-Nations Test between the All Blacks and Springboks on Saturday.

"The physical battle is crucial. The team that is up for it, that wins that battle, will go a long way to imposing their game on the opposition. For us loose forwards, a lot depends on how our team-mates up front have done. Obviously they've been good so far," McCaw said.

While the All Blacks machine has been in such compelling form this year that they need just one point from their last two Tri-Nations matches to win the title, McCaw said he was still looking for improvement.

"I'd be pretty disappointed if we won the Tri-Nations by just getting one point over the next two games. I want us to play better, which means beating the Springboks this weekend, because we could not win here last year."

While McCaw's year has just been getting better, counterpart John Smit's season has gone from bad to worse and he will go into his 100th Test on Saturday struggling to justify his place in the team. His rival over the last nine years has no doubts about Smit's standing, however.

"To play a hundred games in the front row is a helluva effort, it's pretty phenomenal. I see the way he leads his team, he inspires them and he has a big influence on what happens on the field. I have a lot of respect for the way he operates, and I plan to get there (100 Tests) too," the 87-cap McCaw said.

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