Sydney - Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has had a not so sneaky peak at the
progress Richie McCaw is making towards Saturday's Rugby Championship
and Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney after discovering footage of last
week's All Black trial matches in Wellington on the internet.
According to the stuff.co.nz website "It was kind of them to put it on YouTube," he grinned, after
watching highlights of the All Black squad's 40-minute hit outs against
line-ups from Canterbury and Wellington at the Hutt Recreation Ground on
"It looked like there was 10 000 people in the crowd so it wasn't exactly private."
Admittedly the video did not reveal anything about the legendary
flank that McKenzie did not already know - and it was difficult to
gauge the All Black captain's fitness as he works himself back into
shape following a sabbatical.
The Wallabies anticipate McCaw will start at ANZ Stadium on Saturday
and even if he does not last the distance in his first Test since the
All Blacks were thrashed by England at Twickenham last November, the 32
year-old is still expected to make his presence felt at the breakdown.
McCaw's preparation for a return to the test arena only spans a
Christchurch club game, two brief cameos in the Super Rugby finals
series with the Crusaders and 40 minutes against Canterbury, but
McKenzie reckoned he would be up to speed.
"Clearly they've happy with what he's done to bring him back in, that's what you get with an experienced player.
"They've obviously got some plans in terms of preserving the welfare
of their players and they've factored that into their calculations.
"If he'd come off a shoulder injury or something like that he'd be in the same boat, he could have been out for six months."
In a broader sense McKenzie was impressed by what he saw of the
trial matches, though noted the Super Rugby-winning Chiefs contingent
were not involved.
"There were some nice tries scored, a lot of continuity and off
loads," he said, adding his first camp as head coach was also going to
"I'm pretty pleased. We had quite an effective session on Saturday
afternoon. That was where we started getting specific about certain
things we needed to do. It was a pretty willing session."
The 38-man extended training squad was trimmed to 30 late last week
and so far all are available for selection in the 23-strong test team to
be named on Thursday.
Although the All Blacks' workout is out in the public domain,
McKenzie is carefully monitoring access to his training sessions.
In a departure from Robbie Deans' tenure, journalists are not yet
allowed watch the team go through their paces after the opening 15
minutes is filmed by television networks - the media contingent all
leave the venue when the camera time elapses.
The Wallabies trained at North Sydney Oval last week and are now
honing their preparations at the high security Victoria Barracks army
base near the Sydney Football Stadium.
Under Deans the starting line-up was invariably known before the
team announcement but, in his first test in charge, McKenzie is
determined to retain the element of surprise.