Australia v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, Melbourne, July 31
McCaw gives Etihad pitch thumbs up
July 30, 2010

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has played down the hype surrounding the Etihad Stadium surface after getting to see the pitch for himself for the first time.

The Wallabies trained at Etihad on Friday morning without encountering any major problems with a playing surface that has been widely criticised by its usual users, the AFL.

Aussie Rules players have been constantly losing their footing on the slippery surface, leading to calls for a potential boycott due to concerns over player safety. The All Blacks weren't afforded a training run at Etihad due to the need to prepare the ground for an AFL match on Friday night, but McCaw said he had no qualms about stepping out to play there in Saturday night's Bledisloe opener after an inspection.

"I think it's been a lot of talk about not much. It's obviously not the best I've played on but I think it'll be good as gold."

The All Blacks will wear boots with traditional sprigs to help keep them upright, footwear not used by AFL players. AFL also requires more changes in direction than rugby.

"Two big forward packs pushing the scrum might tear it up a little bit but I'm picking it'll be OK," McCaw said. "The AFL guys do different things in a game compared to us. They might have an idea why they're moaning about it. I've played in mud up to the ankles before, you just get on with it."

McCaw said the surface appeared similar to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, another roofed stadium where grass growth was hampered by a lack of natural light. Like his counterpart, Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom also drew a parallel with Welsh rugby headquarters.

"At the end of the year when we play at Millennium it's usually mud painted green. So it's far better out there on Etihad."

Meanwhile, McCaw said the Bledisloe Cup was more important to the All Blacks than the Tri-Nations, but that success in the former usually led to a triumph in the latter anyway.

"I think the Bledisloe probably edges ahead but if you get the Bledisloe there's a fair chance you have the other one as well. The Bledisloe is really important ... when you come to play the Wallabies that's the one you want to look after the most.

"They will be a different challenge and a tougher opponent to what we have faced so far. So we are going to have to be right on the job."


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