Australia v New Zealand
Saturday, August 8th
11.05am Irish time (Sky Sports 3)
Despite achieving almost everything it is possible to achieve in rugby, the Bledisloe Cup still holds a special place in the heart of New Zealand’s Richie McCaw and he is not about to give it up lightly in what looks like being his final season.
A World Cup-winning captain and three-time World Player of the Year, McCaw will match Brian O'Driscoll's record tally of 141 test caps when he takes to the field for Saturday's Rugby Championship decider against Australia.
The 34-year-old’s career goes back so far that he can recall being part of a New Zealand side that lost the Bledisloe Cup series against Australia in 2002, the last time the Australians held the symbol of trans-Tasman Sea rivalry.
Since winning it back after a five-year drought in 2003, New Zealand have held on to the trophy while establishing a dominance of test rugby that saw them recently celebrate a decade on top of the world rankings.
“I would love nothing better than to keep the Bledisloe in the cupboard, absolutely,” explained on Friday.
“But it’s been like that every year. I still remember back to when we didn’t have it and, put yourself in the Wallabies shoes, they will be desperate to get their hands on it.
“That’s what makes a great occasion, is that it means so much for both teams.
“A few of us realise what it was like to not have it and the Wallabies are in that situation at the moment. But I never want to give it back. That’s the motivator every time. Whenever you do hang up the boots if we still have it, I’ll be pretty happy.”
McCaw, who made his test debut in 2001, said he remembered every single one of his 14 defeats in the famous black shirt and matching O’Driscoll’s record would only be a good memory if his performance was up to his own very high standards.
“The one thing I’ve always said is it’s not just about racking up the numbers, it’s what you do when you actually get on the field,” the flanker added.
“Each one, you put in the performance you need to give. With these numbers, it’s important that I play as well as I ever have. If I do that, I’ll certainly sit back with a smile on my face.”
As holders, New Zealand only need to win Saturday’s test against the Wallabies to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
The All Blacks will also go out to defend their World Cup title later this year, of course, and their captain thought the battle for places in the final party for England would be another motivating factor for some players on Saturday.
“I think we’re in a pretty good spot to be honest,” he said. “There’s a bit of edge about guys wanting to perform well to get into the squad.
“Saturday night is another good opportunity for them to do that.”
AUSTRALIA: 15 I Folau, 14 A Ashley-Cooper, 13 T Kuridrani, 12 M Giteau, 11 D Mitchell, 10 B Foley, 9 N Phipps, 8 D Pocock, 7 M Hooper, 6 S Fardy, 5 J Horwill, 4 D Mumm, 3 S Kepu, 2 S Moore (capt), 1 S Sio. Replacements: 16 T Polota-Nau, 17 J Slipper, 18 G Holmes, 19 W Skelton, 20 B McCalman, 21 N White, 22 M Toomua, 23 K Beale.
NEW ZEALAND: 15 B Smith, 14 N Milner-Skudder, 13 C Smith, 12 S B Williams, 11 J Savea, 10 D Carter, 9 A Smith, 8 K Read, 7 R McCaw (capt), 6 J Kaino, 5 L Romano, 4 B Retallick, 3 O Franks, 2 D Coles, 1 T Woodcock. Replacements: 16 C Taylor, 17 B Franks, 18 N Laulala, 19 S Whitelock, 20 S Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 B Barrett, 23 MFekitoa.