McCaw set to last the pace
July 16, 2009
New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw carries the ball during a rare club outing for Christchurch against Lincoln at Christchurch Park, New Zealand, July 11, 2009
Richie McCaw in action during a rare appearance for club side Christchurch, his only warm up for the Tri-Nations © Getty Images

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw says he's fit to last eighty minutes against Australia on Saturday night despite his eight week lay off.

The inspirational open side flanker sat out the All Blacks' Tests against France and Italy last month with a knee injury after only featuring in eight of the Crusaders' Super 14 games. But despite the step up to Test match intensity, McCaw says he will hit the ground running at Eden Park after coming through 42 minutes for his club Canterbury.

"I've done three of four good weeks of training and I've had a couple of hit outs -- more than I have had in the past" he said. "From that point of view I know where I'm at and although a Test match is hard, the adrenaline seems to be able to keep you going."

A year ago he returned to the fold in similar circumstances to lead his side to a 39-10 victory over the Wallabies, but with the Australians a year further in their development under coach Robbie Deans the challenge will be stiffer this time around. McCaw knows that he and the other experienced campaigners will need to up the ante.

"It's not just me. A lot of it will depend on what happens to the big boys really, as it always does," he said.

George Smith will be his opposite number at Eden Park, but Deans has kept some more firepower in his locker with fellow groundhogs Phil Waugh and David Pocock in reserve. However, the prospect isn't one that fazes the Crusader who believes playing more than one out and out number seven can hinder other areas of the team.

"I don't read too much into it," he said. "If they use two or three of them out there at once .... I guess what you get in terms of mobility could be hindered by height in the lineout."

The talismanic captain is looking forward to see his No.8 Rodney So'oialo return to the fold after he was given some time off by Graham Henry. The Hurricanes captain was flagging during the tough Super 14 campaign but returns afresh to bolster the scrum.

"Having a few weeks off has been the best thing for him," said McCaw. "He'd be the first to admit the body was playing up a fair bit towards the end of the Super 14. He's had a chance to get excited and he's already added a fair bit to the squad."

"It's nice having someone who's been around for a while to come back in and slot in as if he's been there the whole time."

And while he might not have been comfortable with the idea of a rest at the time, So'oialo agrees with his captain for whom he will provide cover at open side on Saturday.

"It wasn't an easy thing to do. I discussed it (a rest) with Ted (coach Graham Henry) a few weeks before the team was announced. It was tough but in the long run you have to be a bit selfish and look after yourself and the team."

© Scrum

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