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Ireland V New Zealand: McCaw a giant among greats

By Ciaran Donaghy

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw made his debut against Ireland at Lansdowne Road nine years ago and when he leads the side out tomorrow at the Aviva Stadium he will become the joint most-capped All Black ever.

McCaw, regarded as one of the greatest flankers to play the game, will win his 93rd cap but the first one is still fresh in his mind.

“I hadn't played a lot of rugby when I came on that tour and I wanted to make sure that I proved I deserved to be there. It was an awesome experience running out for the first time in a Test match and in a place like Lansdowne Road it was pretty special so |I have very good memories,” |recalled McCaw.

“When we went 14 points down I was thinking that's a horrible way to start test rugby but it went right pretty quickly. It was the first time I played with a guy like Jonah Lomu and he scored an easy try which changed things around and I was pretty happy at the end that we had got away with the win.

“I’d watched the guys on television as a school kid and pretty quickly after that I was standing with them ready to run out. I guess you can stand there in awe or you can just get on with it and I was nervous but once you run out onto the field you either get on with it or freeze up and I made sure I didn't do the latter.

“I still love playing for the All Blacks and if that ever goes it's probably time to do something else; one day it will be gone and I'll appreciate it then,” continued McCaw.

Despite one victory in their last seven games — last weekend's laboured win over Samoa — McCaw is refusing to write off Ireland's chances of making history with a first win over the All Blacks.

“When you look at the Irish team they are still playing good rugby especially the guys in the backs like O'Driscoll, D'Arcy and O'Gara who are pretty classy and if we allow them to function I’m sure they will show what they can do.

“They did it in the second half when we played them in New Zealand in June. We started to give them a bit of an easy ride and they made us pay for it, so we realise if we do that again we'll be in trouble; they have never been easy games against Ireland when I have played them over the years.”

The battle of the back row will be intense and McCaw was the victim of a headbutt by Jamie Heaslip in the June Test which saw the Ireland No.8 red-carded but the All Black skipper feels there will be no animosity between the two when they clash tomorrow evening.

“I don't think too much about it to be honest and what happens out on the field stays there and you just move on.

“I'm sure he probably regrets getting sent off and putting pressure on his team and I'm sure he won't do that again. I've come up against all sorts of things over the last few years but it just spurs me on and I don't worry about it.

“Heaslip has got a lot of ability, he is quick and he is good with the ball in hand; he is a handful if you give him space to run and he is a big man with a presence.”

McCaw makes history for the right reasons tomorrow but he also does not want to enter the record books as the first All Blacks skipper to lose to Ireland.

“I don't want to be but just not wanting to be and making sure it doesn't happen is different; this year is about this group of players and this tour, we have to make sure we are better than last week and then we'll worry about the other stuff, but I won't want to be the first.”###

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