Richie McCaw backs ‘hugely competitive’ Brian O’Driscoll to be at heart of Irish effort

All Black veteran hands back William Webb Ellis trophy to IRB at the Aviva Stadium

New Zealand’s Richie McCaw in action against England in last weekend’s game at Twickenham.

New Zealand’s Richie McCaw in action against England in last weekend’s game at Twickenham.

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 01:01

The question veteran sports people must grapple with arrived at Richie McCaw’s door once again in Dublin last night. This time the issue of time was phrased in a Brian O’Driscoll context. The comments of a television pundit, trying to convince the public that O’Driscoll has overstayed his welcome in a green jersey was put to the All Black captain.

“I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for the way he plays. He has always been hugely competitive, which is what you expect from top players around the world, and I have enjoyed quite a few occasions playing against him. I’m sure he will be out there on Sunday. I know he is a classy player and he will use his experience.”

With Pandora’s box opened, the matter could simply not end there. Richie, should a player decide when to walk away or should the coach intervene?

“I think there is no reason guys my age [32]or even a bit older can’t play well. It comes down to your absolute desire to perform. When you are younger you do it easily but as time goes on that willingness to go to those dark places mentally and on the training pitch – if you can’t do that properly your form is going to follow.”

Temporarily replaced
O’Driscoll’s reaction to being temporarily replaced last Saturday revealed his enduring mental strength and desire. “I’m sure players know deep down when that time comes,” McCaw continued. “Sometimes they might need to be told but probably when you are told you know anyway.”

McCaw, of course, took an enforced sabbatical for six months this year to allow his battered body heal up after 11 years and what is now a 123 Test match innings. “I just think for myself, I still get a huge thrill out of it and still feel I can play better and I’m willing to go and train as hard as I can. I think when you are willing to do that there is no reason why you can’t go out and perform. As I say, as soon as those thoughts of ‘Oh, today I don’t want to’ that’s probably the time to go.”

Not even the loss of Dan Carter – a serious crisis during the 2011 World Cup – makes them significantly weaker anymore. “We’re going to have to (cope), aren’t we? Yeah, it is disappointing for Dan to come up short with injury but we have done it before so we will just have to do it again,” said McCaw.

Done it before
They certainly have done it before with Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett both maturing into world-class outhalves in 2013.

McCaw was on World Cup duty last night, handing back the William Webb Ellis trophy back to the IRB at the Aviva Stadium.

“You got to be careful,” said McCaw of the All Blacks being on the cusp of a perfect year. Everyone knows what is at stake . . . but for a lot of us who have been around for a while we know it’s the game when you haven’t performed is something to do with the mindset and attitude.”

England caught them at the tail end of 2012 but since then 13 other teams have tried and failed. “Twelve months on the boys are in pretty good shape and I know myself I am pretty determined not to allow that happen again this Sunday.”

Johannesburg couldn’t break them, nor could England on the return to Twickenham last Saturday. But McCaw was generous last night, noting the performance in the second Test in June 2012 when a Carter drop goal kept their near flawless [10-10 draw in 1973] record against Ireland intact.

He brushed over the 60-0 result that occurred seven days later. “We expect Ireland to turn up and play particularly well and we got to do the same.”

Ever think about the fact Ireland have never beaten New Zealand? “Not really because that’s not going to help us.”