Wales v New Zealand
Richie McCaw says he will put team performance before personal milestones when he captains New Zealand for the 100th time in Tests today.
McCaw’s remarkable feat comes 10 years after he made his debut as All Blacks skipper – also against Wales in Cardiff – and further cements his status among rugby union’s all-time greats.
“I am excited about playing,” said McCaw yesterday.
“But the milestones and all that personal stuff comes well second to the team performing. That’s all I want, and the best way to celebrate that will be if the team go well and we have a good performance and win.
“It is our last crack for the year. Our (recent) performances, while they have been okay, we would like to finish off by really putting a performance together. That has been our sole focus, and if we get that right I will be satisfied. We have got to make sure we put it out there from the word go tomorrow.
“If we give them (Wales) space and time on the ball, especially out wide, they are dangerous. It’s the old story that it starts from numbers one to five, which will be a big battle in itself.”
Reflecting on the 2004 Millennium Stadium clash, which New Zealand edged 26-25, McCaw added: “I was pretty nervous leading into that one, I tell you. I led a pretty young side that day and it was pretty tight towards the end of the game. The atmosphere of this place when it is like that is unreal. I just remember being hugely proud to get the chance to do it and honoured, and relieved that we came away with the win.
“Ten years ago was the first time I got to play here and got to understand what playing in Cardiff is all about. The fact you are playing here at the Millennium Stadium in front of 75,000, that’s motivation in itself. I just can’t wait. They are the days you grew up to want to play in.”
Meanwhile Wales fly-half Dan Biggar believes victory over the All Blacks would rank above winning a Six Nations title. Wales have conquered Europe three times during Warren Gatland’s six-year coaching reign and reached the World Cup semi-finals. But they last beat New Zealand in 1953.
“The big thing is we all have to come up with nine out of 10 or 10 out of 10 performances to get a result. That is the reality,” Biggar said. “Anything below nine out of 10 from each of us is probably not going to be good enough. It’s exciting. We have to turn up and push ourselves to demand excellence of each other.
“It has been a long time not to beat the All Blacks, and we have everything in ourselves to do it. It’s just trying to play that down and making sure we prepare as best we can and hopefully we can create something special.
“It would be probably the best moment in any of our careers to pull off a win against maybe the best rugby side ever to play the game.”
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