Sunday 26 January 2020

McCaw warns against copying the All Blacks

World champions will evolve, says legendary captain

Richie McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis Cup following New Zealand’s victory over Australia at Twickenham. Photo: Getty
Richie McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis Cup following New Zealand’s victory over Australia at Twickenham. Photo: Getty
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The All Blacks are the most dominant team in sport, so perhaps it should be no surprise that all of rugby appears to be following their lead.

Yet their greatest international has warned that blindly copying the 2011 and 2015 world champions won't see one of their rivals pass them out; you have to find your own way.

During the last Six Nations, half of the teams were coached by New Zealanders, with plenty of Kiwis lining out for their adopted countries, while much of the credit for Argentina's rise to the semi-final of the World Cup went to Graham Henry.

In Super Rugby, Kiwi sides continue to blaze a trail, while there will be a large New Zealand influence on this weekend's European Champions Cup semi-finals, where Richie McCaw's former colleague Aaron Mauger coaches Leicester Tigers against his old mate Dan Carter at Racing 92.

It would be no surprise to learn that James Kerr's book about the All Blacks, Legacy, adorns the shelves of most of the world's coaches who talk of 'culture' and try and shout loudest about how their team is the humblest on the block. Yet, for all the copycats, the original is the best.

"If you're standing still, you're going backwards, that's the key," McCaw said. "What we did in October, if we're not thinking about being better and finding different ways of being better, then first of all you lose that drive and desire and what it takes to perform every week. Trying to be better is a way of keeping it going.

"There's not much between these top teams and there's a lot of similar ideas out there, but you've got to have your own way of doing it. You take bits out of what other teams are doing but if you try and replicate someone else you're always going to be second.

"It's one of the things that Steve (Hansen) is pretty good at. We have our own sort of vision and the way you want to do things."

Since October, New Zealand have lost McCaw, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Carter and Keven Mealamu, who all played a crucial role in their back-to-back World Cups.

If anyone can survive that loss it is the All Blacks, who face Wales three times this summer before taking on Joe Schmidt's Ireland twice in November.

McCaw is reminded of the last time the two countries met in 2013, a key step on the his team's road to glory as they came from behind to snatch victory at the death..

"You never have 100pc of momentum," McCaw said. "Certainly, for the first part of that game, we were on the back foot. For 20 minutes we couldn't get anything right, the Irish didn't allow us to, but there was still a lot of game to go and to keep that momentum up for a full 80 minutes is tough.

"I always knew it was going to swing at some point. It just took a little bit longer than we thought.

"Then you get to a point in the second-half where I think the Irish boys . . . there was a bit of a wrestle where no-one had control. I can't speak for them but I sort knew from our or point of view we were starting to chip away.

"Johnny Sexton lined up that goal, it would have sealed it. But the fact that he didn't opened the door and you could see our guys, we had been offered the opportunity. . .

"That's that moment in sport. If he had been offered that again he would probably have got that goal. If we had that moment again maybe we wouldn't have scored the try.

"That's what intrigues you. At the end of the game I felt like we didn't deserve to win, that's what I loved about the team I was involved in. We found a way to win."

It's someone else's problem now.

Last week, McCaw completed a 500km adventure race that involved navigation, trekking, mountain biking and kayaking and, having secured his commercial licence, the former All Black will be flying helicopters for a living as he swaps one high pressure environment for another.

He doesn't miss rugby at the minute, but concedes that will change when his old mates take on Wales at Eden Park in June. Yet, having been consumed by that world for so long, he is ready to let go.


"It's one of the things that drives the team to have expectations of themselves, that you go and win and perform in every game," he said. "It's a great thing in that regard, but if you don't embrace it, it can become a big weight. Especially if things don't go your way.

"Perhaps even in my career, it can get a bit heavy. You think, 'jeez, why am I doing this?' You have a win, and it's sort of on to the next one, and you never actually go 'that was a good job, well done'.

"But, you soon get past it, and you go 'well, it's actually a privilege to have that sort of responsibility'.

"That's the exciting part, but I've got to say, one of the reasons that I knew it was time to move on is that it does become tough. The pressure of performing every single week to a high level.

"At some point you sort of go, 'I'm not sure whether the desire, or what you need to do. . . it may not be as easy as it was'."

Richie McCaw was in Dublin to help promote AIG Insurance's Telematics car insurance, which is aimed at 21-34-year-olds and offers up to a 30% discount to those who display high standards of driving. For more information log on to or call 1890 27 27 27.

Irish Independent

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