Cheating’ Richie McCaw provides fuel for critics at Rugby World Cup

Richie McCaw begins the 2015 RWC campaign with a controversial yellow card against Argentina.

OPINION: Richie McCaw ensured the cheating claims will quickly surface as he did himself and his All Blacks no favours with his yellow-card effort in their Rugby World Cup opener.

There are two things you can be sure of when the All Blacks cross the equator and come under the microscope of the northern scribes – the haka will be lambasted and McCaw’s methods will be questioned.

The haka dominated the leadup to the tournament when there was no genuine news to ignite the buildup to Rugby World Cup 2015.

Richie McCaw is led to the sin-bin after being yellow-carded for foot-tripping in the All Blacks’ World Cup opener against Argentina.

But McCaw foolishly provided the ammunition for his own execution when his team finally took the field.

His cynical foot-trip as the Pumas looked to launch an instant attack from a penalty was a blatant foul, an indiscretion performed out in the open rather than the dark secrets that have frustrated opposition and foreign media and fuelled his reputation as a man who has pushed the rules to the absolute limits in rugby’s most competitive position of all.

When referee Wayne Barnes raised the yellow card on rugby’s most capped player, the World Cup record crowd erupted and you could be sure the keyboards of the northern scribes gained a bit of gleeful urgency too.

When McCaw’s frustrated face filled the screens from his place in the sideline dock a few minutes later, the Wembley crowd jeered again.

McCaw has engineered his incredible captaincy through leading by example and sadly this indiscretion did just that. Eight minutes later his able deputy Conrad Smith was there next to him for an infringement at a breakdown as the All Blacks were under pressure in front of their posts.

The world champion All Blacks were momentarily down to 13 men. It wasn’t a good look for them or the game. And their general performance was just as sloppy until they eventually wore down a committed Pumas outfit.

For that reason I’m reversing the clichéd order – here then are the ugly, the bad and the good from the All Blacks’ indifferent tournament opener.


Discipline has to top this category. The cards will have left the coaches looking yellow around the gills, but there were far too many penalties conceded in general.

It doesn’t come much more galling than a winger dropping the ball with an open line, but that was the embarrassment for young rookie Nehe Milner-Skudder. He’d shown a couple of nice touches earlier, but fluffed his line when given his chance for a solo on the biggest stage and was quickly subbed.

The biggest worry from this mixed effort is where does it leave the All Blacks in the bigger picture? This was their toughest test in a weak pool. Namibia, Georgia and Tonga now follow. They didn’t produce a statement performance and somehow have to rectify that in pool matches that will be cakewalks. They looked rusty and they can’t afford that by the time the quarterfinal rolls around against either France or Ireland, who both looked pretty slick in their opening hitouts.


The All Blacks’ miserly defence has been a hallmark of their reign at the top. But they were poor when they conceded the game’s first try – and against a team down to 14 men.

There was a general lack of rhythm between backs and forwards, more particularly in the backline for the first hour or so. Ma’a Nonu, the star of the Rugby Championship victory, was the victim, dragged just after halftime.

The handling bungles weren’t restricted to Milner-Skudder’s clanger. Sam Cane did something similar soon after. Chances must be taken at World Cups.

The passion factor was a worry early on. The All Blacks knew the Pumas would be full of vigour, fuelled by the historic deeds of Japan a day earlier. It took a long time for New Zealand to quell that.


Aaron Smith has been the spark of the All Blacks’ dominance over the last few years. No complaints about his speed to the breakdowns and service as the team’s link-man, but his running game was strangely quiet until it mattered most – using his instinct and his legs to get across the line for the crucial strike to get his team in front for the final quarter.

Julian Savea and Kieran Read – one forward pass aside – took their performances up a level.

When you’re not scoring tries (it was 58 minutes till one came) you’ve got to get points by other means and Dan Carter proved his worth with his trusty boot.

The bench provided enough impact to get the All Blacks out of jail. Their depth is the envy of every squad at this tournament. Sonny Bill Williams showed his offloading value and Beuden Barrett gave better shape to the rearranged backline with his introduction at fullback.

The All Blacks are an 80-minute team and they proved that again with their dominant final quarter. Fitness and composure under pressure saw them get out of an difficult situation.

– Stuff

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