George Smith hones diplomacy skills - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

George Smith hones diplomacy skills

By David Beniuk 21/08/2009 06:14:55 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies captain George Smith is confident All Blacks rival Richie McCaw won't hold the advantage when it comes to sweet-talking the referee in Saturday night's Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup showdown.

Usually more concerned with their battle at the breakdown, No.7s McCaw and Smith will this time also compete for the ear of South African referee Jonathan Kaplan.

McCaw has garnered a reputation as a master diplomat when it comes to dealing with whistle-blowers and has a wealth of experience with the "c" next to his name, while Smith will captain his country for just the fifth time.

"I'm not too worried about what Richie's doing with the referee, it's more about communicating with our players on how the feeling is between the referee and the team," Smith told a press conference on Friday.

"I'll make sure I get that balance and make sure that the team is aware of what needs to be done, make sure those communication lines are clear and we have a good understanding of each other, the referee and myself."

Smith took over the leadership of the Wallabies when regular skipper Stirling Mortlock was forced off Newlands with injury two weeks ago, bringing his debating skills to the fore in the 29-17 loss to South Africa.

Asked if he understood all of the rulings of Irish referee Alain Rolland, Smith said: "Referees have different interpretations of different things and the faster you adapt to that, it's going to be advantageous to yourself and to your team.

"Getting a feel for how the referee's going to referee is important early on and making sure that you're not offside with him as well."

McCaw has no doubts that will be the case for his great rival.

"He's played a hundred Tests so I reckon he's got a fairly good idea," McCaw said.

"The captaincy bit comes from seeking (to do) your job right and I know he'll be fine, he had a pretty good Test last time he was captain."

Scrums are set to be the most contentious area after the Australian pack was caned in the last Test between the two sides, in Auckland last month.

And All Blacks coach Graham Henry ramped up the pressure on Al Baxter, with the Wallabies tight-head the main offender in that game.

"It's pretty clear, you've got to be parallel to each other, you can't have angles, and there were angles in Auckland and that's why one side of the scrum kept on falling over," Henry said.

" ... (Baxter) kept falling over and his opposition kept falling over."

Deans and Henry both met with Kaplan this week, and the Wallabies coach said he was hoping for a fair go at scrum-time.

"(If) Graham's alluded to this area it may be an issue," Deans said.

"Hopefully it won't be an issue because of manipulation."

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