McCaw has rendezvous with Rugby World Cup
Updated: October 21, 2011, 23:07
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has never touched the Rugby World Cup.
He's been in its presence many times, in fact it has been almost omnipresent throughout his career as a beguiling object of desire, a symbol of what New Zealand most wants to achieve in rugby, and as the almost sinister embodiment of past failures.
If all goes to his plans Sunday night, McCaw will touch the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time when he holds it up to the crowd at Eden Park after a final win over France, becoming only the second All Blacks captain - after David Kirk in 1987 - to do so.
Until then, McCaw will resist its allure. He says "I've never touched it because I believe you shouldn't touch it until you've earned it.''
McCaw has twice before been a member of New Zealand teams at Rugby World Cups, as a young team member in 2003 when the All Blacks were beaten in the semifinals by Australia and as captain in 2007 when it was beaten in the quarterfinals by France; a defeat which perpetuated France's image as the All Blacks' World Cup bogey team.
Those experiences have hardened McCaw. He says "nothing is guaranteed'' in Sunday's final, he's even thought what it might be like to lose and how an almost paralyzing wave of national disappointment might swamp New Zealand as it faces the extension of a 24-year wait for World Cup glory.
"You wouldn't be human if you didn't think about that (losing) occasionally, but as soon as you start thinking about that it ain't going to help you,'' he said. "It's about you going out to achieve what you want to and you just won't win the game if you're just worried about the end result.
"You're going to forget about what you've got to do in the next minute, the next job. There's always those sort of thoughts and I've always concentrated on not what happens if you might lose, but what happens if you might win and that makes it a lot more exciting.''
McCaw believes he has the experience, his team has had the preparation and that there are the men around him to end New Zealand's long wait for a second cup. And he is prepared to put off any encounter with the Webb Ellis Cup until the job has been done.
"The opportunity to go out on the biggest stage and play for your country against a team like the French, that's an opportunity that you play the game for,'' McCaw said. "I haven't thought about what it will be like.
"I just want to get out there and show that this team and myself can play our best when it really counts and that's tomorrow night, that's the game I want to do it in. Because of that, for the team that wins - and that's what we hope to do - it will be pretty satisfying.
"For me it's not about personal stuff, it's this team having an opportunity and not wasting it, going out and playing the best game they've ever played in a World Cup final. That's the opportunity that's there and from our point of view we don't want to let that slip by.''
McCaw said he and several of his most senior teammates - the players with whom he most closely consults and who, he says, help him to "drive the team'' - will use the memories of the 2007 to stiffen their resolve on Sunday. He has become a better captain and a better leader, he says, because of his experience of failure.
"A lot of guys have been through one if not two World Cup experiences that haven't been too flash,'' he said. "You'd like to think that just adds to their resolve and desire.
"From my point of view, back in 2003 I didn't understand what it took to win a World Cup and perhaps didn't fully understand the game in 2007. From those experiences you realize you've got to be the best team at the tournament regardless of what's happened beforehand and you've got to produce the goods when it counts.''
He said the senior All Blacks "absolutely understand that.''
McCaw said the experience which existed in the current All Blacks team, epitomized by his own 103 test matches - the most of any player in All Blacks' history - was among its greatest strengths. That experience encompassed good times and bad but had combined to produce a tight and driven unit.
"We've got a lot of men who have been in these situations,'' he said. "They've been around a long time and there's a lot of desire there.
"We've got guys who are good enough (to win the World Cup) but that guarantees nothing. People say who deserves what but in a final it's not about who deserves what. It's about who goes out and plays the best rugby on that stage in this game and that's what we've got to do
"We're up against a team in the French, if you look at their players, who will be thinking exactly the same.
"We've got to have confidence that we've got the men who can play well together and do it.''