New Zealand Rugby - All Blacks
McCaw will be in Rugby Championship squad
June 23, 2013
New Zealand's Richie McCaw was an interested onlooker, New Zealand v France, Gallaher Cup, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, June 22, 2013
Richie McCaw was an interested spectator at the third Test against France © Getty Images

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw is "itching" to return to Test rugby, and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will include him in his Rugby Championship squad.

Hansen confirmed on Sunday that McCaw was rested and progressing well in his return to fitness, saying the flanker would be one of the 31 players named in his squad for the four-nation tournament that kicks off against Australia in Sydney on August 17.

McCaw, 32, is undergoing a conditioning program under the eye of All Blacks fitness trainer Nic Gill after a six-month break from rugby after the team's tour of Europe. He has been running and lifting weights for several weeks, and is now starting to work on contact and ball skills training.

Hansen and McCaw spoke after New Zealand defeated France in the third Dave Gallaher Trophy Test at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth on Saturday, and the coach said the 116-Test veteran was "itching" to return. Hansen said McCaw would play club rugby in July then possibly for the Crusaders in the latter stages of their Super Rugby campaign, adding that he held no concern about the legendary openside being off the pace in Test rugby. "I don't think we have to worry about his mental capabilities," Hansen said. "Time and time again he's proved that he doesn't take too long to jump back into the saddle. And he's coming into a side that's ticking along pretty good."

McCaw's inclusion means at least two players from the 32-man squad that played France will be omitted when the Rugby Championship squad is named in five weeks' time. Hansen says he is unlikely to introduce any other players, although Super Rugby form will be monitored. "There's always opportunities but you'd have to say we're fairly happy with the group that we've got."

Kieran Read has been the captain in McCaw's absence, while Sam Cane started all three Tests against France on the openside.

New Zealand may have been flattered by the margin of victory (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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