Rugby

Richie McCaw Enjoyed Playing At One Irish Stadium More Than Any Other

Richie McCaw Enjoyed Playing At One Irish Stadium More Than Any Other

Over his career, Richie McCaw enjoyed an impeccable record against Ireland.

14 games, 14 victories - some of them closer than others. 2013, for example, required that late Ryan Crotty try to rip first-time victory against the All Blacks from Irish hands.

What drove the All Blacks during that game? According to Richie McCaw, a little bit of fear - not wanting to be part of the first New Zealand team to lose a game to Ireland.

From an All Black point of view, you don't want to be the first team to lose to Ireland. Whether that's a driver, maybe it is. I know that last test, we'd gone through unbeaten all year, I didn't want to trip up on that last one. Probably we should have, but we didn't.

The former All Blacks captain made his debut against Ireland in 2001. It was a case of another nearly game for Ireland against the All Blacks. After a tremendous effort in the opening 43 minutes, Ireland eventually wilted to the All Black will, losing 40-29.

McCaw has played at both incarnations of Lansdowne Road - his debut was at the old version - and enjoyed the experiences. His favourite memory of playing in Ireland though was in 2008 when the All Blacks played at Croke Park - and it wasn't just because of the 22-3 win.

There's no doubt the current Aviva is an amazing place to play but to have played at the old Lansdowne Road a couple of times, you know I watched on TV a couple of times as a young fella, the history of it, I was pretty lucky to get to play at both. That new stadium is pretty special.

I'll tell you what – the one great experience we had when it was being rebuilt was to play at Croke Park. I understand the history of Croke Park and that was pretty cool.

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The majority of McCaw's encounters with Ireland featured two players in particular - Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell. The two-time World Cup winner has massive respect for both.

An Irish player of younger vintage who McCaw appreciates is Sean O'Brien. The back row's performance against New Zealand in 2013 - for which he won Man of the Match - particularly caught the eye.

There's been a few. Most of the times I played Ireland, Brian O'Driscoll was playing and I'd have a lot of time for the way Brian goes about things. Paul O'Connell's another one that I'd have a lot of respect for. He was around most of the time. The last game we played, Sean O'Brien – I'd have a lot of time for the way he plays – he's a great player. He had a pretty good day, he certainly made himself known. Even during the World Cup, that French game – the last pool game – he had an outstanding game. Certainly Paul and Brian, who I came up against in a lot of games, I'd have a lot of time for them.

Last weekend, Connacht ripped Munster to shreds with a bonus-point win. Architect in chief as the western province ran amuck at the Sportsground was Bundee Aki. The Auckland-born centre becomes eligible for Ireland late next year. Aki's potential is something of which McCaw is aware.

If he'd carried on playing the way he is over here, he would have been knocking on the door as an All Black. I don't think he was going to be that far off. I might have to knock on his door and get him back home.

Aki is not the only son of New Zealand currently abroad who McCaw believes the All Blacks could benefit from repatriating. Should Joe Schmidt be interested in taking up the All Blacks head coaching job, McCaw thinks he could do a 'great job'.

I don't know Joe. But the guys who worked with him when he was helping out with the [Auckland] Blues, they all rated him highly. There's no doubt he's got the Irish team – they've won two Six Nations – playing pretty well. I think he's an astute man when it comes to the game and putting a team together and how to play. You can see that with the way the Irish have been going about things.

I'm a bit selfish but it would be nice to see Steve Hansen go through to 2019 but he hasn't signed up – yet. If it opened up and Joe was the guy that wanted to come home and do that then I'm sure he'd do a great job. The experience he's picked up is pretty amazing. He'd be pretty good. But I guess there's a few New Zealand coaches around the world that are doing pretty well.

All Black legend and AIG ambassador, Richie McCaw was in Dublin to help promote AIG Insurance’s Telematics car insurance. The product, aimed at 21-34 year olds, is designed to encourage and reward safe driving in Ireland by offering up to a 30% discount to those who display high standards of driving. For more information log on to www.aig.ie or call 1890 27 27 27.

Picture credit: Sportsfile

PJ Browne
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