Richie McCaw believes lessons of last year’s World Cup exit have made him a better leader and the All Blacks a stronger team.
The All Blacks have had to come from behind to claim victories over the Wallabies in the Tri-Nations decider as well as in Hong Kong, something they failed to do against France last year. They also had to fight back from a fiery first half from Wales, but McCaw believes his players are now responding better to the key moments in Tests.
“It would be easy to start making more mistakes when you get under pressure, that’s what’s been pleasing this year – we’ve absorbed the pressure and taken our chances,” said McCaw.
The All Blacks skipper feels he has matured as a leader this year, after he inspired the team to a Tri-Nations title after being injured for the opening encounters. “The experiences you go through definitely make you stronger.
“A year down the track I’ve learnt to back my gut instinct, what you believe in and stuff like that. Hopefully I’m better than I was back then,” he said.
McCaw has been in outstanding form, with his coach Graham Henry describing him as the “best player in the world”, and he acknowledged performing as an individual was key.
“The other thing that’s key is to keep performing yourself.
“If I look back on the year I’ve been reasonably happy I’ve done that. That’s the first thing you’ve got to do as a captain.”
McCaw praised the work of the senior players around him in maintaining calm as the All Blacks head into the English Test with their most capped pack ever with 363 Tests in the front eight alone.
“The good thing is when it doesn’t happen the senior players have kept believing in what we’re doing. They’ve gone through another year and played another 15-odd tests as well. A lot of them have 50-60 tests now, that has to make the team stronger.”