Image: Rugby Union – New Zealand v Argentina – IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool C – Wembley Stadium, London, England – 20/9/15 New Zealand’s Richie McCaw (L) and Conrad Smith come back into the game after being sin binned Reuters / Russell Cheyne Livepic
By Justin Palmer
LONDON (Reuters) – New Zealand and captain Richie McCaw, as befitting the world’s number one side and most-capped player, are rarely ruffled and never panic — even when trailing opponents who match their intensity and work rate.
The All Blacks, accustomed to dominating collisions and the breakdown area, met their match for 40 minutes at Wembley on Sunday as Argentina harried and hustled the Rugby World Cup holders in their Pool C opener.
Centre Conrad Smith and then McCaw were sent to the sin bin in quick succession late in the first half, but the All Blacks regrouped to overcome a 16-12 deficit before pulling away to win an absorbing contest 26-16.
McCaw said the All Blacks never worry about what the scoreboard says.
“If you focus on the scoreboard, that’s when pressure builds — just do what you can do right now and hopefully things will happen,” he said.
New Zealand have strength in depth in all areas and a slew of replacements after the break helped to change the course of the game.
“At halftime we realised we needed more energy, it was lacking,” McCaw said. “We were getting beaten to the punch in the contact areas. We couldn’t allow that in the second half … had to change things.
“We made sure we did not get tense and worried. Just focused on getting sorted. For most of the second half we started to win the contact areas.”
McCaw was unceremoniously booed by the hordes of Pumas fans among the near-90,000 crowd, the biggest in Rugby World Cup history, while sitting in the sin bin.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen described it as a “lack of respect”; McCaw was typically unperturbed.
“It is what it is,” the side’s on-pitch leader said. “It has happened before. If you get wound up it’s not going to help you.”
McCaw instead chose to lavish praise on the Pumas, who he feels pose a “genuine threat” at this tournament.
“If they keep playing like that, they are going to keep causing teams distress,” he said.
“Their physicality and what they do around the contact area is pretty good.”
(Editing by David Goodman)
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