Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

McCaw feels fresh for Ireland clash

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw admits he is hitting top form, just as New Zealand's season draws to a close in Dublin on Sunday.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has sounded an ominous note to world rugby, admitting he is "only just getting started" - before the final game of the season.

The All Blacks' peerless openside flanker revealed the benefits of his 2013 Super Rugby and June Tests sabbatical that he hopes will help him reach the 2015 Rugby World Cup in top form.

McCaw will turn 33 on December 31, and by then he hopes New Zealand will be the first international team to complete a perfect calendar year in the professional era.

Ireland are desperate to ruin the All Blacks' bid for that 100 per cent campaign, when they host Steve Hansen's side in Dublin on Sunday.

Anticipating a fierce onslaught from Ireland, McCaw said: "It feels like I'm only just getting started to be fair.

"So it's bit of a weird one really, for this time for me.

"But I'm just stoked to get a few games in a row, and another chance on Sunday.

"There's no doubt it's been a positive, to get to the end of this tour, and to feel like you're only just getting going.

"I would have liked to have a few extra games this year, but the way it is is the way it is.

"But it's certainly made it all a little bit easier.

"It's always a great atmosphere in Dublin, and when we played here two or three years ago it was brilliant.

"It's never been easy, it's always a hell of a battle, when the crowd get behind them in a good atmosphere, it's always a tough place to play and that's what we're expecting."

McCaw confirmed the All Blacks have talked about their chance to make history in Dublin by completing the season with 14 wins in 14.

He said: "That does add a little extra to this game, as I said it doesn't actually change how you prepare.

"We've had a good week and the guys are excited to get out there, keen to get out on the track.

"I think you do talk about the chance to make history - in the context of that being a by-product of getting the job done on Sunday, and getting the week right.

"We said at the start of the week there would be a lot of talk about it being the end of the season and all those things that come with it, but we just have to go about our business.

"I think we've done that as well as we can, so now it's just a matter of putting a performance out there.

"It would be pretty nice to be sat there after 80 minutes with grins on our faces."

McCaw admitted New Zealand have been mindful of last season's 38-21 closing defeat to England at Twickenham - but said a year on the All Blacks find themselves in a far stronger position.

He said: "I think it's hard to even compare to be honest.

"By the end of the previous week last year we were probably struggling a bit physically and mentally.

"Whereas this year the excitement levels are there, there's no talk of wanting to get on the plane or anything.

"Everyone's keen to do the job, so from that point of view it's totally different."

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