Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina set to equal cap record

THEY may not have experienced the elation of winning the World Cup, but current All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw and full-back Mils Muliaina could at least emulate the legendary Sean Fitzpatrick by equalling the former New Zealand hooker's record tally of 92 caps if, as seems likely, the pair play against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

For McCaw, who took over the All Blacks' captaincy from Tana Umanga, it would be fitting if he equalled Fitzpatrick's record in the land of his ancestors. "Both sides of my family are from Scotland, but I'm not one who gets carried away with where it's going to be. I'd just enjoy the fact of getting to that milestone," said McCaw, adding: "I played my second Test here in Edinburgh and I've got good memories of that."

McCaw's parents, currently staying with relatives in Carlisle, will be at Murrayfield to watch what is expected to their son's record-equalling appearance for the world's No 1 side. The likelihood is that McCaw will start in all five Tests on their tour, a fact he accepts is part of the job.

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"I'm happy if that's the way the coaches want to go. They'll pick the best team for that week and will be weighing it up week to week. That's much better than having pre-planned ideas. But if I'm asked to play every week then I'm happy to do that, although it's not something I've asked to do" suggested McCaw.

It is not only as a leader that McCaw is valued. Of equal importance is his technical ability as an openside flanker, a role he thinks has become more interesting in the wake of this season's interpretation of the tackle law that requires that tackler to move away immediately.

"You know what you can and what you can't do these days. The tackler that was not getting up and causing slower ball isn't having the same influence that he used to," he observes, without naming names.

McCaw and Muliaina were contemporaries in their early days of rugby on New Zealand's South Island. "He was a very good player then," said McCaw. "He seems always to have the ability to take the right options. He was one of the guys in the Southlands Boys team who was a bit of a threat. He takes fairly good options all the time and that's nice to know. And he's still getting better."

The All Blacks skipper refutes the view expressed by sections of the New Zealand press that the Scotland Test will be the easiest one for the tourists.

"I've looked at the way the Scots play. They want to use the ball and they have some ability to do that. In years gone by it's been the case that Scotland has been an easy game, but we'd be silly to think that now. Against Argentina, and certainly up front, they were pretty good. They're playing some good rugby right now," said McCaw.