Can Richie McCaw go '100 miles an hour'?

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 13:29 21/07/2014
Richie McCaw
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SET TO GO: Richie McCaw may be fit to play for the Crusaders, but can he go "100 miles an hour" to get the nod to start?

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Richie McCaw was the first Crusaders player to sprint out on to the training track this morning and his selection for Saturday night's Super Rugby semifinal against the Sharks should now just be a formality.

While the rest of the forwards slowly made their way on to Christchurch's Rugby Park for today's practice, the sight of an eager McCaw, who has not played since fracturing a rib while captaining the All Blacks against England last month, jogging and stretching on his own must have been a welcome sight for the Crusaders coaches.

Assistant coach Tabai Matson, who spoke to media while the forwards went through their lineout routines under the scrutiny of fellow coaches Todd Blackadder and Dave Hewett, said McCaw only needed to emerge unscathed from trainings over the next two days to confirm his place in the side for the match at AMI Stadium.

''We have learned in the past that it is fine to be available to play, but we need people who are ready to go and be 100 miles an hour and not kind of building into the game,'' Matson stated.

''It will really be determined by how he feels over the next 24 to 48 hours.''

With Matt Todd in fine form at openside flanker, McCaw was expected to start on the blindside and force Jordan Taufua to the bench.

The Crusaders were officially awarded the trophy for winning the New Zealand conference before training began, with captain Kieran Read posing for photographs alongside franchise chief executive Hamish Riach, chairman Murray Ellis and New Zealand Rugby Union vice president David Rhodes.

It might make a nice addition to their trophy cabinet, but the Crusaders know that lump of shiny metal won't be enough on its own. Winning the title for the first time since 2008 was the only thing that would satisfy them and their fans.

Memories of the embarrassing 30-25 loss to the Sharks, who were reduced to 14 men when Jean Deysel got sent off for standing on Jordan Taufua's head in the first half of their earlier encounter in Christchurch on May 17, remained clear for the home side.

''Absolutely we are really keen to have another crack at them,'' Willi Heinz, who was expected to be the back-up halfback to Andy Ellis, said.

''We were very disappointed with the way we played against them last time.

''It's never nice losing at home, but that was one we definitely felt we let slip, just by the way we played.

''We are certainly looking forward to making things right on Saturday night.''

Heinz also praised Dan Carter who has stuck firm to his pledge of steering clear of booze - something he started during his sabbatical several months ago - for his input to the squad since returning to the Crusaders in late June.

''He's a world-class player isn't he? And I think more than anything the confidence he brings to the side is massive,'' Heinz added.

''He is a cool, calm head out there and I have really enjoyed the way he has brought a real physical edge to that midfield.

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''He leads the line-up and the other boys have got to chase him up there. In the last couple of weeks you have seen the line-speed we have been able to bring up there and that has put other teams under a lot of pressure.''

- Stuff

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