Learning from World Cup mistakes Posted over 12 years ago

Photo: Jean-Francois Fournier, Monaco

Some gold that Richie McCaw gave to The Rugby Site before their World Cup assembly. His thoughts on how New Zealand can learn from the mistakes of the previous two World Cups.

“When I went to my first World Cup in 2003 I didn’t really understand what it was all about. I thought we would just turn up and everything would work out. It was a shock to see there was so much more to it. It was a shock to watch the final with a beer in my hand and not be a part of it.

2007 was different. It seemed we were in good shape going into that one. You could come up with a lot of reasons why we lost – we were not used to being under pressure, the rotation system, an inexperienced captain, the pressure of expectation, the loss of Dan Carter in the quarters, a couple of close calls went against us. If the answer was as clear as all that then winning the World Cup would be easy.

But I think there are a few things in New Zealand’s favour this time. A lot of this squad has been through at least one World Cup and we understand what it takes and we know that all the matches that have gone before mean nothing. Four years ago we had slaughtered France before the World Cup and then we lost.

I think we have to acknowledge the fact that the World Cup is a big tournament. There’s no point trying not to talk about it. It’s not just another rugby match. The World Cup is a cool thing and it’s coming to New Zealand. That’s how we have to think.

We need to get the balance right of opening up enough. Maybe in the past we have kept ourselves to ourselves. We need to be able to show the people of New Zealand and the world what we are up to without compromising how we play on Saturday. People want to see how the All Blacks are going. It’s important we don’t shut them out.

You can also see that teams with very good defences have done well at previous World Cups. We play a great deal of rugby in the Southern Hemisphere that rewards the team that scores the most tries. In World Cups it is often the team that makes the fewest mistakes that wins. Defence is a big part of our current game.

We also need to be able to adapt and think on our feet when we get to the knockout stages. As a captain I need both to back my gut and be able to ask for help. You need to make subtle changes on the run. You may suddenly have to go an extra ruck in order to manipulate field position before you kick. And you need to look in control. Don’t let the opposition think you are uncertain.

Rugby is a simple game that gets too complicated at times. We need to think clearly and play with purpose. And we need to enjoy the whole nine weeks and not just think about Saturday."

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_Graham Henry on Richie McCaw:_ Very modest and very intelligent with seven straight A's in his first year at university. An outstanding number 7, the only man to win the IRB player of the year on three occasions. He leads by example, he sets objectives, he has the respect of the troops and a great feel for the moment. Up there with Wilson Whineray, Brian Lochore, Graham Mourie, Buck Shelford and Sean Fitzpatrick as one of the great post war captains of New Zealand rugby. He is a very special man.

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