All Blacks: McCaw - No grudges over Heaslip

By Dylan Cleaver

Richie McCaw equalled Sean Fitzpatrick's record 92 test caps last week and will pass it this weekend along with Mils Muliaina. Photo / Getty Images
Richie McCaw equalled Sean Fitzpatrick's record 92 test caps last week and will pass it this weekend along with Mils Muliaina. Photo / Getty Images

DUBLIN - All Black captain Richie McCaw is honest enough to acknowledge he has rubbed too many opponents up the wrong way to bear grudges.

So when his team kick off against Ireland at the new Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Rd, the last thing on his mind will be getting a square-up on No 8 Jamie Heaslip.

It was Heaslip who wrecked any chance of a contest when the two teams met at New Plymouth in June, being sent off early after kneeing McCaw in the head twice.

"You just move on. I don't think too much about it, to be honest," he said yesterday.

"I don't know what others think, but what happens out on the field stays there and you move on, don't you."

McCaw said Heaslip probably regretted his actions, but the motivations behind his actions were not something that kept him awake at night.

"He ended up getting sent off and hurting his team, so I'm sure he won't do that again. Look, I've come up against all sorts of things in the past few years. I obviously annoyed him somehow so I must have been doing something right."

The 29-year-old openside has been doing "something right" for the best part of a decade.

McCaw equalled Sean Fitzpatrick's record 92 test caps last week and will pass it this weekend along with the other constant in the All Blacks for the past seven years, Mils Muliaina.

In a nice piece of sporting symmetry, McCaw's first test came in Dublin in 2001, John Mitchell's first year in charge of the team.

"I hadn't played a lot of rugby when I came on that tour and I just wanted to make sure I deserved to be there really.

"To run out for a test match for the first time at a place like Lansdowne Road, it was pretty special."

At one stage it looked like being special for all the wrong reasons as a relatively inexperienced New Zealand team trailed 21-7 into the second half.

"I thought, 'Geez, this is a pretty horrible way to start test rugby,"' McCaw said.

A couple of special moments from Jonah Lomu and a man of the match performance from the debutant flanker sealed a 40-29 win.

"That was the first time I got to play with guys like Jonah, so that was pretty special in itself. I'd watched him on TV as a schoolkid, then soon after school I was running out with [him]."

The buzz is not the same nine years on - it can't be.

McCaw cannot sit back and concentrate on his own game now. He has to see the bigger picture.

"But I still love the contest and the fact I'm playing for the All Blacks," he said.

"If that ever goes, it's probably time to start doing something else. I'll never take for granted the fact I'm playing for the All Blacks because one day it'll be gone."

The All Blacks are expected to reinstall the centres pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, denying the Irish public the opportunity to witness rugby's latest phenomenon, Sonny Bill Williams.

Andy Ellis is likely to get the chance to start his first test since Milan last year, after an impressive try-scoring cameo off the bench against Scotland last week.

Cory Jane is over the chest injury he suffered in Hong Kong and will almost certainly resume his duties on the right wing, while Tom Donnelly could be given the chance to regain ground he has lost to Sam Whitelock on tour.

* Irish lock Donnacha Ryan will not be available for the hosts, having been suspended for three weeks by a Six Nations disciplinary committee for stamping on a Samoan player last weekend.

FLASHBACK

How the All Blacks lined up for Richie McCaw's test debut, Dublin, November 17, 2001:

* Leon MacDonald.
* Doug Howlett.
* Tana Umaga.
* Aaron Mauger.
* Jonah Lomu.
* Andrew Mehrtens.
* Byron Kelleher.
* Scott Robertson.
* Richie McCaw.
* Reuben Thorne.
* Chris Jack.
* Norm Maxwell.
* Greg Somerville.
* Anton Oliver.
* Greg Feek.

- NZ Herald

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