McCaw a reassuring presence in Crusaders camp

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2013
Richie McCaw
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
WELCOME RETURN: Richie McCaw and Todd Blackadder share a laugh after the Crusaders' win over the Reds.

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Now Richie McCaw knows how it feels to be a second-stringer.

The 14,000 onlookers at AMI Stadium weren't the only ones wondering whether Todd Blackadder was playing a cruel game by delaying McCaw's return to Super Rugby on Saturday night.

The All Blacks captain also had some anxious moments as Matt Todd was retained at openside flanker deep into the final quarter during the Crusaders demolition job on the Reds.

"I started turning to the (coaching) box, waving and making sure they remembered. I was just thankful to get what I did, really," McCaw mused. "Fifteen minutes was probably enough because I was pretty knackered by the end of that time."

When McCaw finally did replace Todd in the 65th minute the roar that accompanied his return was predictable and within minutes he carried the ball during the lead-up to Ryan Crotty's second try.

Although McCaw is no longer captain his presence alongside fellow All Blacks Kieran Read and Dan Carter - all are members of the All Blacks leadership group - at training this week will offer some reassurance to the younger members of the squad ahead of the semi-final.

The only time McCaw has missed the play-offs was when the Crusaders crashed out of contention in his debut season in 2001.

Now he is the unique position where he is not only excluded from the Crusaders war room during their preparations but isn't their captain, either. Until this season, when Read took over, he had been the skipper since 2005.

McCaw, who also replaced All Blacks captain from Tana Umaga in 2006, said he knows his place.

"It's just about fitting and doing the job. That's what they want from you."

However, his message ahead of the semi was emphatic. Last week Andy Ellis said the Crusaders were determined to absorb the lessons from the All Blacks' successful World Cup campaign in 2011 and McCaw reiterated that theme.

"The biggest thing is to back-up a big performance like that. In finals rugby you have to win three games in a row if you are to win the thing.

"How do you do that? It comes back to if you prepare well. It's easy to say that but it's the guys who turn-up and are genuine that will perform.

"That's going to be driven by the guys that have been there before. There's a real hunger for those who have been in this position for the last couple of years. You don't want to have that feeling (of letting the title slip) again."

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