The 32-year-old McCaw played more than 70 minutes last week in the All Blacks 47-29 victory over the Wallabies, confounding expectations from across the Tasman he would be ring rusty after a six-month sabbatical from the game.
He had entered the opening Rugby Championship clash at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium with only a low level club match and two cameo appearances off the bench for the Canterbury Crusaders under his belt.
But the openside flanker became increasingly influential the longer the test match went on, overcoming an opening quarter when he appeared over eager to get involved and being penalised several times by referee Craig Joubert.
“I was all right after about Tuesday,” McCaw told reporters with a laugh while standing sideline at Wellington Regional Stadium. “The body was a bit bruised but you expect that.
“I was a little bit inaccurate from the start.
“Overall I was happy enough but I also realise that I was no means perfect and … I just need to make sure that my performance this week is another step up and I can contribute to the team as well.”
McCaw’s contribution to the side will again be tested on Saturday as he and the other experienced players that form the core leadership group will be expected to help new flyhalf Tom Taylor through his test debut.
The 24-year-old Taylor has not played in the number 10 jersey this season and was brought into the squad earlier this week following injuries to Dan Carter (calf), Aaron Cruden (knee) and Beauden Barrett (calf).
Wallabies captain James Horwill and scrumhalf Will Genia have both said while they expected Taylor to perform at the test level, they would attempt to rattle him early and often.
“I think he will do very well,” Genia said. “They have picked him because they think he can handle the pressure and can do the job.
“But he has only played 12 (this season) so from our point of view we want to put him under as much pressure as we can. You have to with somebody who is playing their first test.
“We have to put pressure on him and will look to see how he copes with it and the decision making and controlling of their game.”
Horwill said Taylor’s elevation was similar to the 2011 rugby World Cup when Stephen Donald came into the side and kicked a penalty that helped the All Blacks to their second Webb Ellis trophy after they had a similar injury crisis at flyhalf.
“Look at the World Cup when they were down to their fourth or fifth choice (flyhalf) and they won the World Cup,” Horwill said. “They have got a lot of depth. That’s just one of their strengths.”
McCaw also harked back to the World Cup and the way in which the team had rallied to help first Cruden, then Donald, to just concentrate on what they had to do when they were brought into the squad.
“I think this week we have tried to make it as easy as possible for him,” McCaw said of the team’s approach with Taylor.
“At the end of the day he is in the number 10 shirt and he has to control the game.
“We just have to help him do his job, but he’s good enough to do that.”
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)