McCaw fears eased ahead of semi-final

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A nation obsessing over Richie McCaw's injured right foot was assured yesterday that the All Blacks captain will play in Sunday's World Cup semi-final against Australia.

McCaw is regarded as the best openside flanker in New Zealand history and his absence, after the departure of the equally accomplished Daniel Carter, would be a potentially crippling blow for the All Blacks.

Speculation about McCaw's fitness was fuelled on Wednesday when another openside flanker Matt Todd trained with the All Blacks and yesterday assistant coach Steve Hansen pre-empted the expected barrage of questions at a morning news conference when he announced: "Richie McCaw's foot is fine."

He added: "Matt Todd is in Auckland and it just made common sense to have him here. Now that doesn't mean to say that Richie's foot is any worse than it was, it doesn't mean that Richie is not playing on Sunday.

"It just means that Matt Todd was in Auckland and we wanted to use him for training as opposition. Matt Todd is part of our wider training group and trained with us in Christchurch as did other players down there. We've had wider training group players come in for training at all the venues."

Hansen said McCaw had not trained on the pitch last week and would probably not train again on the pitch this week until today. The 30-year-old loose forward sat out New Zealand's final group match against Canada after missing the Japan match with a back injury but played against Argentina in last week's quarter-final.