Captain Amazing sets the benchmark

Wynne Gray of the Herald, writes:

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When you think Richie McCaw can’t amaze any more, he busts that perception.

He’s heading towards his 35th birthday at the end of the year, has outplayed nearly every opponent throughout his 137-test career and is still leading the All Black fitness marks.

In the squad, only the equally remarkable Keven Mealamu is older, and he can’t match his skipper in the repeat endurance and sprint work which digs into the players’ all-round resilience.

McCaw is the Phar Lap of footy, a man who never knows when he is beaten and would probably like to challenge scoreboard attendants about the results they exhibit.

His competitive fire is stoked to extraordinary levels on the training paddock or playing arena.

As the All Blacks assembled this week for their first camp of the year, McCaw reminded everyone of his pedigree. He laid down the physical markers to add to the spiritual leadership he gives his side.

World Cup organisers have recognised his impact, and his image is one of the five variations being used on tickets for this year’s tournament.

McCaw has been through a few timeouts this season while understudy Sam Cane has pounded through an extensive campaign with the Chiefs to show he’s ready for any international.

It’s an absorbing idea but one McCaw moved to the side burner this week as the All Blacks shifted into gear.

While Cane sat out the gut-busting work to refresh his legs, McCaw churned to the front and never relented.

That example said everything about the All Blacks and the attitude which keeps them at the top of the world rugby tree.

Come on boys, McCaw might have taunted, let’s see if you puppies can hack it with the ageing hound; age is only a number and training is what we do.

When the All Blacks look at their schedule, with five tests before they defend the World Cup, they can set McCaw to be in his best shape at the tournament. They can mix the workload between him, Matt Todd and Cane and have the captain primed for what they hope will be three games at the gravy end of the tournament.

McCaw doesn’t have to start each test or even play. His presence should be enough to lift performance standards from his teammates.

He’s already at the All Black apex in terms of quality performance, leadership, endurance, bloody-mindedness and good blokeness, sensible enough to turn down the offer of a knighthood.

Are McCaw’s teammates ready to compete as hard as their captain, ready for one final push past the uncertainty to higher levels?

– NZ Herald

Original article here.