New Zealand captain Richie McCaw says premature exits from previous World Cups have taught them valuable lessons that should serve them well in the final.
The All Blacks are heavily favoured to beat France at Eden Park on Sunday, but there is a discernible sense of trepidation among the New Zealand public given their team’s history of underachievement at the tournament.
Asked whether the team’s resolve is driven by the fear of unexpected defeats at previous World Cups, McCaw said: ‘A lot of guys have been through one if not two experiences that haven’t been too flash and you’d like to think that just hardens the resolve and the desire.
‘From my point of view, what happened back in 2003 [defeat to Australia] I never understood what it took to win a World Cup. Perhaps didn’t fully understand again in ’07 [defeat to France] but those experiences you realise that to win it you’ve got to be the best team in that tournament regardless of what’s happened beforehand and you’ve got to produce the good when it counts.
‘We’ve got men who’ve been in situations, they’ve been around a long time and there’s a lot of desire there. We’ve got guys that are good enough but that guarantees nothing. People say who deserves what, but at the end of the day in a final it’s not about who deserves what. It’s about who goes and plays the best rugby on that stage, in this game, that’s what we’ve got to do. What’s happened before means absolutely nothing. We’re against a team, the French, who’ll all be thinking exactly the same.’
McCaw is the most successful captain of his generation, with only the World Cup title alluding him. There are those who have argued that he cannot be considered a truly great skipper until he completes his haul with the one the Blacks most covet. McCaw doesn’t agree, but did acknowledge his deep desire to succeed on Sunday.
‘You’d like to think the things you’ve done through 10 years, regardless of what happens tomorrow, mean something,’ he said. ‘But this is the biggest game that I’ve played in and it’s one you want to do well in. If you’re going to pick a game before you start playing any rugby what one would you want to play in? It would be a World Cup final.
‘I won’t be around forever but hopefully when I leave one day people will say that all the history has gone before, all the legacies that have been set have been upheld if not raised.’
McCaw said he is not the superstitious type, but responded quickly when asked whether he had ever touched the trophy. ‘No. I don’t think you should touch it till you’ve earned it.’