No respite for Wales as McCaw heads for sabbatical


Wales 10 New Zealand 33Richie McCaw won the man of the match award in Cardiff on Saturday, an event so predictable he probably has it in his contract. But take a good look at the New Zealand captain at Twickenham next weekend, because it will be the last chance to watch the supreme individual of the modern era for the next six months.

After leading out his side against England in his 116th Test match, the 31-year-old McCaw will be heading off on a sabbatical to allow his mind and his limbs to shake off an accumulation of fatigue.

Last year he successfully made light of a foot injury as the All Blacks won the Webb Ellis Trophy on home ground. A screw inserted to secure broken bones had worked loose, leading to further small breakages. After the tournament a plate was inserted and the problem seems to have been solved, although he may need knee and shoulder surgery in his break.

“I don’t think the physical side is a problem,” he said after New Zealand had scored 33 points to Wales’s 10, continuing the home side’s miserable run. “But I’ve been on the treadmill for a while now and I need to refresh. It’s a chance to have a break and turn up again in better shape than I am at the moment. There’s obviously a risk with it – you give someone else a crack. But I think it’s the right thing. And when you have to watch a few games, you realise what you’re missing.”

As Test matches goes, Saturday’s match in Cardiff was not the All Blacks’ most stressful challenge. Aaron Cruden, a late replacement for the injured Dan Carter, got the scoreboard rolling with three penalties before tries from flanker Liam Messam and prop Tony Woodcock, both converted by Cruden, gave the visitors a 23-0 lead at the interval. Messam’s try came at the end of blazing handling move that took the ball the length and width of the pitch and formed a miniature master class in the arts of supporting and offloading at pace.

Within the first five minutes of the second period the impeccable Cruden had nailed another conversion and converted another magnificent try, this time from the lock Luke Romano. At 33-0, with the game effectively over, Hansen started to empty his bench.

Wales, having paid for a series of what Hansen described as “crazy” decisions not to kick for goal, salvaged a little of their pride through tries from Scott Williams, who had replaced the injured Jamie Roberts midway through the first period, and Alex Cuthbert, but on neither occasion could Leigh Halfpenny add the extra points with his kicks.

As usual, New Zealand made it difficult to indulge in completely wholehearted admiration of their supremacy. Andrew Hore’s brutal and cowardly assault on Bradley Davies in the second minute, which saw the Wales lock taken off on a stretcher at the same time as the prop Aaron Jarvis was leaving the field for good with a twisted knee, went unnoticed.

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