Richie McCaw doesn’t like losing. You don’t captain the All Blacks more than 90 times, leading them through World Cup heart break and triumph without enjoying the company of defeat about as much as Louis Van Gaal does that of an inquisitive journalist.
On Saturday night ( on our side of the world) McCaw will lead New Zealand out at ANZ stadium in Sydney for the opening game of this year’s Rugby Championship, and the first Bledisloe Cup game of 2014, against the rejuvenated Australians.
The last time the New Zealand skipper was on this particular field was in the Super Rugby Final just two weeks ago. Unfortunately for the great man, he gave away the last minute penalty which allowed Bernard Foley to kick NSW Waratahs to their first ever title in the competition.
McCaw and his Crusaders teammates may have shared a few post match pints with their opposite numbers following the game. However, no amount of Steinlager would’ve meant Richie got anymore sleep than Dustin Johnson on an average Saturday night…allegedly!
Saturday is the 33-year olds chance to restore order to the rugby world and to lead the All Blacks into the record books. Should New Zealand beat Australia, they’re currently 1/2 to win the game; it will be a new world record of 18 test match victories in a row.
The Australian side will be led flanker Michael Hooper, a man who looks like he’s just stepped off the beach down in Summer Bay. While only 22-years old, Hooper has already amassed 31 caps for his national side and is seen by many as the man most likely to inherit McCaw’s crown as the world best openside/ dirty cheat.
The Wallabies coach, Ewan McKenzie, has made the rather bizarre decision to play Kurtley Beale at out-half, rather than Beale’s club mate Bernard Foley who had such an impressive Super Rugby campaign in the number 10 shirt. Beale’s talent is beyond question but his decision making can be about as erratic as Charlie Sheen after a few gin and tonics.
However, all eyes will be on the man wearing number 15 for the men in gold, Israel Folau. After only two full seasons as a rugby union player, Izzy is arguably the world’s most potent offensive force and the key to the Australian attack. The giant full back is 9/1 to be the first try-scorer and is 35/1 to run in a hat-trick or more of tries.
The last time the Wallabies beat the All Blacks was in 2011, when a team dominated by the Super Rugby champions the Queensland Reds inspired them to victory in Brisbane. If you fancy this Waratah inspired, Australian side to claim victory on Saturday, they’re currently priced at 13/8.