Richie McCaw still gets nervous for big matches

Last updated 15:17 29/07/2014
GOOD NERVES: he may have 113 tests, three World Cups and 137 appearances for the Crusaders to his name, but All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw still gets anxious before the big matches.
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GOOD NERVES: He may have 113 tests, three World Cups and 137 appearances for the Crusaders to his name, but All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw still gets anxious before the big matches.

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For Richie McCaw the job of preparing for big rugby matches should be as simple as flicking dust off his shoes.

That, he says, is nonsense - the anxiety will never go away.

Despite playing 127 tests, appearing in three World Cups and making 137 appearances for the Crusaders, the 33-year-old flanker still finds himself burning-off nervous energy ahead of crucial matches such as Saturday night's Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs in Sydney.

''Yeah, definitely. It is a good sort of nerves, though,'' McCaw said.

''These are the moments that you want to be involved in and games you want to play in. You go through all the hard work for three, four or five months to give yourselves a shot at this game.

''From a personal point of view you want to go out play well for the team to give yourself a chance.''

The flanker, who is again expected to start at No 6 to allow Matt Todd to remain at openside, is well aware of what is required to give his team the opportunity to win their eighth title.

Since his debut in 2001 he has played in seven grand finals and celebrated winning four of them.

When the Crusaders last won a title in 2008 McCaw was the captain. Now Kieran Read is the side's leader, having been appointed to that role at the start of last season.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder is unlikely to make any changes to his side which will be named when they are in Sydney on Thursday.

McCaw has made just eight appearances this season. He broke his thumb early in the campaign and then suffered a fractured rib while leading the All Blacks against England last month.

After having a month's rest to allow his ribs to heal McCaw was welcomed back for last weekend's semifinal against the Sharks by a team-mate who accidentally stepped on his face, and opened up a wound near the eye, in the warm-ups.

Rather than let the injury distract him McCaw played like a man possessed and his combination with Todd proved instrumental in the Crusaders loose forward unit playing a key role in the 38-6 win over the Sharks at AMI Stadium.

Now the Crusaders have found themselves in the unique situation of having to face a Waratahs side they never played in the regular season.

''It is a little bit different, you haven't got the past experience of it,'' McCaw acknowledged. ''The coaches do a fair bit of that (analysing the Waratahs) and most of us, over this week, will have a bit of a look at it.

''It's more understanding that if you give them ball with space they are a team that want to have a crack and have got some playmakers that do that. We just have to make sure we limit that.''

Talented fetcher Michael Hooper and blindside flanker Stephen Hoiles, along with No 8 Wycliff Palu, will be matched against the Crusaders back row of Read, McCaw and Todd but it is the Waratahs backline where the Crusaders are expecting more of the ball-running action.

While the Sharks refused to go outside of their conservative mindset of largely kicking first and asking questions with the ball later, McCaw expects the Australians to utilise strike attackers such as Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale.

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''That just comes down to pressure,'' McCaw said in reference to shutting down the Waratahs backs.

''We have got to make sure we don't give them space and put the pressure on them. You allow them to get their tails up and confidence because of what they have done all year, they will be a tough animal.''

- Stuff

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