Richie McCaw believes he wasn’t very good at getting away with infractions at the breakdown, despite the massive impact he could have in that area of play.
All Blacks legend McCaw is regarded as one of the best rugby players of all time, having captained his country to Rugby World Cup glory on two occasions, while he was also named as the World Rugby player of the year three times.
McCaw was a well-rounded player, but his area of expertise was at the breakdown, where he was a constant thorn in the side of opposition teams and was often accused by opposition fans of not playing entirely within the rules.
The New Zealander was speaking on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast and argued that he had to be on his best behaviour at ruck time after being asked if he was either “technically perfect, nothing to see here or a cheating bastard” at the breakdown.
Richie McCaw on the ‘grey area’ that exists at the breakdown.
“Technically perfect, I’d probably say. I’ll always say though, there’s a little bit of a grey area in rugby and you’ve just got to work out if you’re on the darker side or the lighter side of grey,” McCaw explained.
“I don’t think I was very good [at getting away with ruck infractions] at all. Especially as time went on because refs were watching me like a hawk. So you had to be even more perfect. That’s the way I looked at it.
“I guess the thing that hit home to me was, I was playing a game where I heard the referee say, ‘Hands off seven,’ and I wasn’t even in the ruck. He had obviously been programmed to say that before the game started.”
?️ “There’s a little bit of grey area in rugby and you’ve got to work out whether you’re on the darker side or the lighter side of grey.” ?@JamesHaskell asked Richie McCaw THAT question ? ? pic.twitter.com/snJMMMXVRc
— The Good, The Bad & The Rugby (@GoodBadRugby) January 5, 2022
‘You’ve got to know which one to take.’
The breakdown remains as one of the most crucial areas in rugby, and one of the most difficult to officiate, where small infractions can have significant consequences for teams.
While McCaw certainly wasn’t able to avoid being penalised at the breakdown at all times, he was a lot better than most and explained that players need to know when to take their chance in order to have the biggest impact.
“I think one of the things I’d say around that, without getting too technical, is it’s actually knowing the time when you can have an impact and when you can’t. It’s essentially knowing when you can have a ping,” McCaw said.
“I’ve always said that the game delivers half chances and it’s a matter of being able to look for each one and knowing which one is the right one. It might be the first one that’s offered or it might be the 10th. But you’ve got to know which one to take.”