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McCaw, Elsom Contrasting Figures In Duel

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Richie McCaw
Richie McCaw

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

Tokyo, Oct 31 NZPA - Richie McCaw is baffled his long-time rugby sparring partner George Smith isn't starting tomorrow, while his new opposite Rocky Elsom is just itching to prove he's the man to inspire the Wallabies.

The contrast for the opposing skippers could barely be wider in tonight's fourth Bledisloe Cup test at the National Stadium here (9.30pm NZT).

McCaw will lead the All Blacks for the 40th time in his 77-test career as his side bid for seven wins in a row against the Wallabies.

It's no coincidence that the last time the Wallabies beat their trans-Tasman neighbours, in Sydney 15 months ago, McCaw was absent injured.

The inspirational All Blacks flanker admitted Smith's benching in favour of a Wallabies loose trio of scavenger David Pocock and ball carriers Wycliff Palu and Elsom caught him on the hop.

"That is a bit different. He's played 100-odd tests and I don't think there's ever been a time when I've played the Wallabies he hasn't been there," McCaw said.

"It surprised me a little bit that he's not out there. I really rate him highly and the things he does around the field often aren't seen. He's a pretty smart footballer and he's got a lot of influence over what happens in games.

"I guess we'll see him during the game. It's probably a good thing for us."

Smith led the Wallabies in their 6-33 thrashing from the All Blacks in Wellington, and coach Robbie Deans this week remarked Smith was uncomfortable in the role.

Elsom meanwhile will debut as skipper in a reshuffled Wallabies side without another former skipper Stirling Mortlock (calf) who was earlier passed over for Elsom for this tour.

Asked how he'd like to be known as Wallabies captain, he said: "A really successful one would be ideal. "

The abrasive loose forward, the Wallabies' 76th test skipper, said it would be a simple formula on the hard and fast National Stadium pitch.

"The performance is crucial. If you want to be leading guys, you want to be playing well and reinforcing the value that you're trying to promote within the team.

"That's very important, but there's not always a necessity to talk a lot on the field.

"We've prepared well, so that takes away the need for that at times. Of course there are some times you want to say a few things but you've got to be careful and choose your words well because you can only take so much in when you're on the field."

Despite little riding on the result tonight, there is plenty of intrigue after Deans' reshuffle, and whether the All Blacks can back up their Wellington performance with a largely unchanged side before their five-match European tour.

The pressure has been on a seemingly relaxed Deans in recent weeks, amid reports of tension with Matt Giteau and Mortlock. And he felt the All Blacks would lack little for motivation.

"They finished our last outing strongly and that's where they want to start. This is a venue they'll seek inspiration from, via (double 1964 Olympic gold medallist) Peter Snell, and they're obviously thinking about standards and raising the bar.

"We know what we'll encounter, you always want to meet the best at their best and we're looking forward to the contest."


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