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McCaw: England in for shock in Six Nations

Pumped with confidence after an unbeaten 2016, England could be set for a rude awakening when the Six Nations start this weekend, with the rugby extravaganza more open than it has been for years, All Black great Richie McCaw told Reuters yesterday morning (Singapore time).

England begin their campaign against France at Twickenham on Sunday morning, and will also need to contend with a powerful Ireland side in March if they are to sweep up the trophy.

The ever-mercurial French are sure to provide a stern opening test, and the Irish are still buzzing after their historic first win over the All Blacks in Chicago in November.

"The English team did pretty well over the last 12 months... been unbeaten," said McCaw in typically understated fashion.

"But I don't think there are any 'gimmes' who are necessarily going to roll up and win it.

"I think it is pretty open. The English... with the confidence... there is no reason why they can't go through unbeaten again and win it. But they will have to play pretty damn well.

"I thought the French were pretty good in November and obviously the Irish as well, and that is without even talking about the other three (teams)," he added, referring to Wales, Scotland and Italy.

NEW GUIDELINES

Twice a World Cup winner and three times World Rugby Player of the Year, McCaw was in London to promote the Leicester Square premiere of the film Chasing Great, which documents his final season and record-breaking World Cup campaign.

Leaning backwards in a plush armchair, he seemed to relish finally taking a half-step back - something he never would have countenanced during his combative playing days.

"(The Six Nations) is pretty intriguing... I think the fact I am no longer looking at it from a point of view of who you are going to be playing next... (I) can just watch it and listen and hear it from a fan's point of view. And that is quite cool."

One aspect he will be looking out for is how referees implement new guidelines introduced to cut out high tackles, guidelines that are widely expected to produce a slew of yellow cards as players adapt their techniques.

McCaw, the most-capped rugby international with 148 appearances, said he would welcome any directives that prevent serious injury.

"Look, to be honest I haven't followed that too closely," he said.

"The bit I have seen, I don't think it's a bad thing, the fact they are trying to look after the players out in the field.

POINT OF VIEW

"I guess I look at it from my point of view. It wouldn't have changed anything I did in how I tackled as I was never really in that risk zone. There are some players who are often right on that borderline.

"You can say that is just the nature of the game. But if it is done to injure people and you do get it wrong there have to be consequences. At the end of the day, when you get forced to, guys will adapt and you have to do it.

"And if it stops someone from getting a head injury or a nasty injury, I think it is a good thing." - REUTERS

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