Richie McCaw back, though return some way off

ALL Blacks captain Richie McCaw has started running and lifting weights again but whether he plays the tail end of the Super Rugby competition is still up in the air.

Richie McCaw: Sixmonth break. Picture: Getty

The 32-year-old loose forward is in the midst of a New Zealand Rugby Union-sanctioned six-month sabbatical from all rugby and will miss next month’s three-Test series against France.

McCaw had spent some time travelling around North America and Europe during his sabbatical, which is scheduled to finish in late June, in time for the Canterbury Crusaders’ final regular season games against the Waikato Chiefs and Wellington Hurricanes.

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The six-team play-off series begins on 19 July, with the Super Rugby final on 3 August. “When I’m back playing is still in the air a bit,” McCaw said. “I’ll get these next couple of months training [done], then it will come down to a discussion with [coach] Todd [Blackadder] and what’s best for them and what’s best for me. We’ll make the decision going forward.”

McCaw began running and did a weights session last week but will now look to increase his workload, although the Rugby Championship involving Australia, South Africa and Argentina that starts on 17 August is a more likely event for his return.

“I’ve got a bit of time to get fit,” he added. “Last week was about getting the dust off. Next week I’ll ramp it up a bit. I want to make sure when I’m back playing, I’m in good shape. If I get the next couple of months done right, hopefully we’ll be in good shape to do what’s needed.”

McCaw’s team-mate Kieran Read, who is likely to replace the flanker as New Zealand captain for the Tests against France, has returned from a long-term toe injury for the Crusaders’ match against the Auckland Blues tomorrow. Read suffered a partial tear of ligaments in his toe in the Crusaders’ 55-20 victory over the Southern Kings on 23 March.

The 27-year-old No 8’s return will be welcomed by the Crusaders, who had a bye last week but beat the table-topping ACT Brumbies 30-23 in Canberra on 5 May, giving them some impetus into the final part of the season.