Rugby Union


Brumbies wary of Super Rugby's 'absolute warrior' Richie McCaw

He is described as Super Rugby's ultimate warrior and has never lost to the ACT Brumbies  in New Zealand. But the Brumbies believe their fierce attack at the breakdown can combat All Blacks great Richie McCaw as he prepares for his comeback game in Christchurch on Saturday.

World Cups, Super Rugby titles and more than a decade as one of the world's best players - McCaw will bolster the seven-time champions Crusaders as they aim to continue the Brumbies' 14-year hoodoo in New Zealand.

The champion flanker will be playing just his third game of the season after breaking his thumb in the second round.

But Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher warned his players to expect the New Zealand skipper to be back to his brilliant best in the crucial rivalry contest.

"He's the ultimate competitor, he's an absolute warrior. You never get a cheap possession and you never get a cheap try [when McCaw's there]," Fisher said. "He just never gives in, he's hard around the breakdown and competes for everything. The rest of the Crusaders side draws encouragement from that. He's just a real warrior."

For almost a decade McCaw and Brumbies great George Smith went head to head as the two best openside flankers in world rugby. But while Smith retired from Australian rugby in 2010, McCaw has powered on to establish himself as a legend of the game.


Perhaps the only weakness in his game is his lack of game time this year. But Fisher said it would be foolish to take him lightly. "He won't be missing out. He's an inspiration and, like all good leaders, he inspires by action. He's the heart and soul of the Crusaders team."

The Brumbies are regarded as one of the most ferocious breakdown teams in the competition, despite not boasting a specialist openside flanker as injured superstar David Pocock is out for the rest of the season.

The Crusaders will launch an assault at the ruck with McCaw to team up with his understudy Matt Todd.

The Brumbies have not beaten the Crusaders in New Zealand since a team of superstars toppled the Canterbury side in 2000.

That was the year before McCaw made his Super Rugby debut, and the World Cup-winning skipper will be intent on continuing his 14-year run against the Brumbies.

McCaw took a sabbatical from Super Rugby last year but returned to lead New Zealand to triumph in the Rugby Championships.

His game time has been minimal. But Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen said that should serve as a warning as the team braces for a rejuvenated veteran to run onto the field.

"You just know he's world-class, even when he's not near his best," Mowen said. "In a way it's easy to prepare for him because you know that all of his games are brilliant. They're talking about him as possibly the best All Blacks captain ever. That sort of player boosts any team."

Only five Brumbies players have beaten the Crusaders - Mowen, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is the only member of the squad to win a game in New Zealand against Super Rugby's most dominant team.

It is the first time the Brumbies have played the Crusaders in New Zealand since 2011. Since then they have won in Pretoria, Durban, Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland and Johannesburg. Now, they are desperate to add the Crusaders' scalp to their list of achievements.

"We put it out there as a challenge to the group. It's not just the record that we haven't won since 2000, more so it's the way we've been comprehensively beaten in the past three games over there," Larkham said.

"It's a challenging place to be at; they play a more confident brand of rugby when they're at home. It's a true heartland of rugby in New Zealand ... it's an amazing experience and the guys will know all about it on Saturday."

The Crusaders have lost just three of 18 games at their new AMI Stadium home.