Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Captaincy questions swirl over Tri-Nations sides

Richie McCaw. Photo / Greg Bowker
Richie McCaw. Photo / Greg Bowker

World Cup captaincy is taking on a cloudy tinge for the Tri-Nations sides.

All three skippers have been asked questions about their leadership and in the case of the Springboks and perhaps the Wallabies, whether their designated leader is worth his place in the side.

There will be those who witter on about collective management and group direction.

That is okay as a public sentiment but in practice, it is about as much use as rest and rotation circa 2007.

Rugby sides need commanders, men who are sure of their craft who will make decisions instead of calling a meeting to sift the alternatives.

Those union discussions can take place at injury breaks or halftime.

But any referees worth their significant match fees will call time on the growing shop steward meetings which are infecting the game.

So who will be guiding the Tri-Nations foes when they resume combat in late July?

The All Blacks figure Richie McCaw will be there; he is in action tomorrow in Brisbane during a year when his involvement has been stalled by foot surgery.

If McCaw has to be parked in the garage again who will lead the side? Someone in the seven-strong leadership group, I suppose, with Mils Muliaina the last to deputise officially in 2009 when McCaw was dinged.

That was not a great success.

And Kieran Read at No 8 and in the hub of the action as he is with the Crusaders might be a better alternative to Keven Mealamu or Daniel Carter.

In Australia, designated skipper Rocky Elsom will not play again in the Super 15.

He suited up last week for the Brumbies after drawn-out muscle problems and dinged an ankle.

Coach Robbie Deans figures Elsom will recover for the Tri-Nations, but former test players and commentators like Tim Horan and Brendan Cannon think that might be rolling the dice a little.

They mention James Horwill or Will Genia as alternative leaders - two men who go into battle for the Reds tomorrow as they look to continue their rugby renaissance against the Crusaders.

Further afield, John Smit, captain of the defending World Cup champion Boks, has been in mixed form and under the pump from Bismarck du Plessis for his place in the Sharks.

Coach Peter de Villiers has given Smit his leadership approval but there will be unrest from players who query Smit's dwindling impact, fuelled by a questioning media.

At least the All Blacks know McCaw is their man, a treasure at No 7, an unrelenting breakaway and a leader of outstanding quality in more than 50 tests.

- NZ Herald

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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.

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