Richie McCaw left in stitches by friendly fire

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 07:46 30/07/2014
Richie McCaw
Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ

TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM: Even before he took the field against the Sharks last weekend, Richie McCaw needed stitches for a facial cut.

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Welcome back Richie: Fancy a kick in the face?

Richie McCaw might have expected some encouragement ahead of his comeback match but getting a boot near the eye by a team-mate seemed an extreme way to send the message.

As the Crusaders worked through their warm-ups ahead of last Saturday night's semifinal at AMI Stadium McCaw was shocked to discover he was required to bleed for the cause a little earlier than usual.

So who was the clumsy oaf that put the boot into one of the Crusaders' most expensive players - and potentially knocked him out of their most crucial match of the season?

"I haven't figured out who it is yet - but it was a front rower or a lock," McCaw said. "It was 21mm sprigs anyway."

Those long sprigs made a fair mess: McCaw was sporting the stitches and a shiner at training yesterday but there was never any chance of him missing the match. After discovering the red gravy oozing from the cuts, he motioned to team doctor Deb Robinson to warm-up her sewing fingers.

"So I had to run-in and get stitched-up before I ran out - it was 'welcome back'," McCaw, who was making his comeback from a fractured rib, laughed.

There were no concerns, he added, that he would miss the kick-off.

"No, no. Deb was pretty good with the needle, so we were good there. That would have been real bad wouldn't have it?

"That was pretty annoying but apart from that I'm all good. The ribs are all fine, so I look forward to the weekend."

McCaw's ability to ignore pain during matches is already etched in rugby folklore.

He played the World Cup with a broken bone in his foot, kept playing when he broke his thumb against the Blues in Auckland earlier this year and competed against England last month with a fractured rib.

While he isn't concerned about the facial injury forcing him out of the Saturday night's grand final against the Waratahs in Sydney, McCaw is wary about the need to shut down his opponents' talented backline.

"That just comes down to pressure. 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 be- cause of what they have done all year, they will be a tough animal."

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