Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: McCaw is back and up for challenge

McCaw will be up for this contest against the Australian conference leaders. Photo / Getty Images
McCaw will be up for this contest against the Australian conference leaders. Photo / Getty Images

Several months after he packed his left thumb in ice and headed for surgery, Richie McCaw is back in red and black.

Not in his preferred openside role this afternoon against the Brumbies, but on the other side of the scrum as the Crusaders juggle their resources.

Matt Todd has been excellent in McCaw's absence and with captain Kieran Read sidelined with a repeat concussion, coach Todd Blackadder has decided to use his openside flankers in tandem.

It is a royal contest for McCaw to return to work but the 124-test flanker revels in these sort of matches. Remember how he returned from a lay-off and a few games last year and went straight to work in the Bledisloe Cup?

McCaw will be up for this contest against the Australian conference leaders. It was unusual to see him fall off a couple of tackles in his last game against the Blues, but subsequent revelations about his broken thumb went some way to explain those mistakes.

The Brumbies have beaten the three New Zealand sides they have played - the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes - and have maintained the momentum which took them to the finals last year.

They lead the Australian conference, while victory for the Crusaders will keep them in touch in the NZ conference.

Experience in these sort of duels counts for a great deal.

That sort of loose forward impact was apparent last round for the Cheetahs as former Springbok fetcher Heinrich Brussow returned from injury to showcase his invaluable work at the breakdown, where he secured possession and then slowed down the opposition ball. Combat at set-piece should be a cracker among the tight fives, with the Crusaders looking to get some traction in the breakdown zones and by zeroing in on the Brumbies inside backs.

They can set Todd and McCaw in different zones which should raise the pressure levels among a galaxy of NZ-born loosies. Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen is the only starting loose forward born in Australia with Jarrad Butler, Jordan Smiler, McCaw, Todd and Luke Whitelock all raised here.

There are five rounds before the series takes a test break. This is the start of the lengthy sprint to the interval, a test of stamina and skill as teams look to make a break on their conference rivals. McCaw is known for those qualities, topped by an uncommon layer of sporting wisdom. He knows he will be judged harder than most because of the regular quality of his work. Waiting for his response will be absorbing.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 30 May 2017 00:26:40 Processing Time: 494ms