Steve Hansen puts faith in McCaw’s fitness for Wallabies battle
32-year-old has only recently returned to rugby after a six-month sabbatical
Richie McCaw, New Zealand captain
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has put his faith in the fitness and mental toughness of Richie McCaw by naming him to lead the world champions in their opening Rugby Championship clash against Australia on Saturday.
The 32-year-old has only recently returned to rugby after a six-month sabbatical from the game, playing 80 minutes of a lower level club match and making cameo appearances off the bench for the Canterbury Crusaders in the Super Rugby playoffs.
McCaw had been expected to play the full 80 minutes of a warm-up match last Friday, but while he was rested for the second half Hansen is confident the openside flanker would be up to the rigours of Test match rugby. McCaw played throughout the All Blacks’ victorious World Cup campaign with a broken foot and barely trained at all during the tournament in New Zealand but managed to lead his team to the Webb Ellis trophy through sheer bloody-mindedness.
He will face a severe test against a young Wallabies loose forward combination that is likely to start with New South Wales Waratahs openside flanker Michael Hooper, with the equally impressive Liam Gill expected to come off the bench. Uncapped Ryan Crotty could make his debut off the bench after Hansen named the Crusaders inside centre among the replacements.
NEW ZEALAND (v Australia): I Dagg; B Smith, C Smith, M Nonu, J an Savea; A Cruden; A Smith; T Woodcock, A Hore, O Franks; L Romano, S Whitelock; L Messam, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Replacements: K Mealamu, B Franks, C Faumuina, B Retallick, SCane, T Kerr-Barlow, B Barrett, R Crotty.