Rugby World Cup 2011

McCaw rubbishes cheat claims

2011-09-03 13:12
Richie McCaw (Gallo Images)

Auckland - Several thousand fans turned out in the rain on Saturday to greet the team at their civic reception, cheering them as heroes in the making despite the revival of claims that they are the world's most successful team because they cheat.

Henry rubbished claims the All Blacks operate outside the rules.

"We ignore it and move on with what we can control," he said.

McCaw described the accusations as "old stuff that keeps coming up and a bit of imagination (by the accusers) wouldn't go astray."

The All Blacks said they are ready to challenge for the World Cup as they before they open the tournament on home soil against Tonga.

The side is down to just three fit loose forwards and, as well as facing accusations of being serial cheats, has had to contend with news France is contemplating resting several frontline players for their crucial Pool A clash.

A weakened French side could leave the All Blacks going into the sudden-death rounds underdone, repeating the scenario that led to their demise in the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup.

The New Zealanders are under enormous public pressure to win the World Cup for the first time in 24 years to appease their supporters in a land where rugby success is seen as a symbol of what the country stands for.

Adding to a tough countdown for the tournament favourites have been losses to the second and third ranked sides, Australia and South Africa, in recent weeks.

However, coach Graham Henry and captain Richie McCaw on Saturday said they are well prepared for rugby's toughest challenge.

Henry was aware of talk the All Blacks could face a weakened French side, similar to the tactic Scotland used against the New Zealanders in 2007, but said he had learned from the past about the intricacies of sudden-death rugby.

"At the last World Cup we had a soft qualifying round. We played Scotland B so I think in our preparation we have to take that into consideration. We might have to work a bit harder during the week," he said.

McCaw added: "We've got to set a standard we're happy with (against Tonga) and then improve it. You can't just come out and turn it on when you think you have to because it will be too late by then."

McCaw, Jerome Keino and Victor Vito are the only fit loose forwards in the squad after Adam Thomson and Kieran Read were both injured in the Tri-Nations Test against Australia a week ago.

Thomson is expected to have recovered from his elbow injury before the All Blacks second match against Japan on September 16 but the outlook for Read's ankle injury was less clear.

"We're praying," Henry said. "We think he will play before the end of the round robin. That's a pretty aggressive rehab but knowing Kieran he'll give it his best shot. He'll play in this World Cup but how soon is the question."

Locks Sam Whitelock and Anthony Boric, who both have experience in the number six jersey will act as back up loose forwards if required while Thomson and Read are out of action.

As a final touch to their preparations, the All Blacks have drafted New Zealand's only successful World Cup coach, Sir Brian Lochore who guided the 1987 team, into their group in a mentoring role.

The All Blacks play Tonga, Japan, France and then Canada in Pool A.


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