Kiwi wrap (Thurs) brings you the latest news from New Zealand’s year-end tour.

Cowan seeks redemption

All Blacks scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan is ready to make the most of the latest opportunity to prove his value.

Five months ago Cowan looked to be flushing his All Blacks career down the toilet – three incidents of misconduct resulted in guilty pleas and a NZ$3000 fine imposed by the New Zealand Rugby Union.

He was ordered to attend counselling and a clause prohibiting him from drinking alcohol was added to his contract. However, his work ethic on the field has never been questioned and when injuries to Andy Ellis and Brendon Leonard handed him an opportunity, he impressed with some outstanding performances during the Tri-Nations.

Now further injury to Ellis has handed Cowan a starting role against Ireland on Saturday.

“I’m very fortunate with those injuries,” said Cowan. “It’s disappointing for their sakes, but it’s a bonus for me. This game is about taking your chances. I’m reaping the rewards now, but it’s through hard work too.”

Cowan confessed his problems off the field forced him to make positive changes to his lifestyle.

“They were tough times, I was in a dark place, I was at rock bottom and you can’t go any lower. I had to reassess my life and where I was going. I’m glad it happened – I’m benefiting now.”

Wallace hails McCaw

Ireland loose forward David Wallace has heaped praise on All Blacks captain Richie McCaw ahead of their duel at Croke Park on Saturday.

Wallace has been studying tapes of McCaw in the build up to the clash and believes the opensider’s true brilliance can only be truly revealed under intense scrutiny.

“As the game has evolved, so have McCaw’s techniques. You can see him doing different things now that he didn’t do before,” said Wallace.

“You have to be on your toes to counteract everything he does. As an openside, he’s the best in the world. It’s said he sometimes plays from an offside position, but I don’t agree with that.

“He just has little tricks up his sleeve – things that you might not even see unless you watch them several times over on the video. As players, we all try to learn from each other. Hopefully, he’ll be looking at us to learn a few things as well.”

The Munster man is well aware of what is required to counter the threat McCaw poses.

“It’s great when you come up against someone like McCaw because it puts you on full alert. You’re not going to be complacent,” he said. “You just have to make sure you’re dominant at the breakdown. Any chink in our armour will be exploited and if we’re not switched on, he will cause problems.”

More to follow …