Elders Wanted to Snot McCaw

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Richie McCaw leads the All Blacks for the 100th time on Sunday. RICHARD KNOWLER was in Cardiff to hear coach Steve Hansen and McCaw sift through the memories of a remarkable career.

Steve Hansen tells an amusing anecdote about the time Richie McCaw risked being pummelled by his team-mates.

The eager young flanker had been going berserk at Canterbury trainings in the early 2000s, repeatedly ducking into rucks to steal the ball and, subsequently, annoying senior squad members.

Enough was enough, the old heads agreed. Something needed to be done.

So established forwards Todd Blackadder, Reuben Thorne, Scott Robertson and Angus Gardiner marched up to coach Hansen and demanded he tell McCaw to curb his enthusiasm or they might have to give the cheeky pup a slap.

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“Toddy, Reuben, Razor and Angus Gardiner came to me at one point and said ‘look if he comes into another ruck and pinches another ball we are going to snot him’,” Hansen recalled ahead of McCaw’s game against Wales.

“I said ‘if you snot him I will be snotting the lot of you, so leave him alone. He’s only a baby, just look after him and get there quicker than he is’.”

Even back then, Hansen said, McCaw wanted to be the best.

But the coach was also careful to ensure the enthusiastic No 7 didn’t unwittingly make enemies.

“I had to go to him quietly and say ‘let them win a couple, you are starting to piss them off’,” he said.

McCaw, 33, is the current immortal of New Zealand rugby and Hansen wants to ensure his milestone of leading the All Blacks in 100 tests gets the recognition it deserved.

It was Hansen, then working as Canterbury’s academy manager, who saw something special in McCaw as a teenager.

The 18-year-old was playing for Otago Boys’ High School against Rotorua Boys’ in a national secondary schools play-off match at Lancaster Park, setting a firecracker off inside Hansen’s head.

Hansen marched to Steve Tew, then the Canterbury chief executive and now NZ Rugby’s chief executive, and jabbed a finger at him.

“I went into Tewie’s office and said [no matter] how much he costs, just get him. This kid’s special.”

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Tew shook his head, reminding him that Canterbury and Otago had a gentleman’s agreement not to poach each other’s players. But Otago made a dreadful mistake. They broke that deal and, suddenly, all bets were off.

“They pinched Sam Harding from Christ’s College, so we got him [McCaw] up to Lincoln College,” Hansen said.

“There was just something about him from day one.”

McCaw joined the academy, was given some extra cash to make him feel appreciated, selected for Canterbury and the Crusaders and in late 2001 debuted for the All Blacks against Ireland.

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