Richie McCaw.
Richie McCaw. SMP Images - Charles Knight

McCaw's foot not a problem: Hansen

AS THE nation's anxiety levels reach dangerously high levels over the fitness of the All Blacks captain ahead of Sunday's Rugby World Cup semifinal against Australia, assistant coach Steve Hansen attempted to offer some soothing words this morning.

"Richie McCaw's foot is fine,'' he said, as seismic activity in Christchurch abated and the Rotorua geysers calmed.

"Matt Todd is training with us. Matt Todd is part of our wider training group and trained with us in Christchurch, as did other players down there. We have had other wider training group players come in for training at all the venues. Robbie Fruean was with us in Wellington and Christchurch.

"Matt Todd is in Auckland and it just made sense to have him here. That doesn't mean Richie's foot is worse that it was. It doesn't mean Richie won't play on Sunday. It just means Matt Todd is in Auckland and that we wanted to use him for training as opposition. Hopefully that puts that away and we can talk about the game.''

It won't because concern over McCaw's foot will persist. It's the focal point of 24 years of waiting for another World Cup win. It would be unthinkable if the All Blacks had to take on Australia on Sunday night without McCaw and Dan Carter.

McCaw won't train fully ahead of the game, in the same way he didn't for the quarter-final against Argentina, and will take a limited part in Saturday's captain's run. He's done some cardio work and joined his teammates at Les Mills gym last night when he did some work on the bike as well as weights.

His foot is clearly not right and it's expected he will need surgery after the World Cup but it's not enough to prevent him playing - especially not a World Cup semifinal. He's mentally very strong and is prepared to play through the pain. He managed 72 minutes against Argentina last Sunday in what was a very physical encounter.

McCaw has had a quiet World Cup by his standards. He didn't play against either Japan, when he was bothered by a calf complaint, or Canada and hasn't been the dominant No 7 he has been in the past. He's still critical to New Zealand's success, which is why so many New Zealand fans know a lot more than previously about the anatomy of feet.

"I thought he played pretty well last week," Hansen said.

"It was a tough game for loose forwards because the Pumas were outstanding defensively and got a lot of numbers to the breakdown.''

The injury situation is looking a lot healthier around the rest of the squad with Israel Dagg (haematoma), Richard Kahui (hamstring) and Zac Guildford (hamstring) all expected to be fit for selection. Dagg is likely to return to fullback and Kahui to the wing, nudging Sonny Bill Williams to to the bench, but Guildford is unlikely to break into the matchday 22.

Adam Thomson trained with the side yesterday and will need to pass a fitness test on his injured ankle today if he is to take his spot on the reserves bench ahead of Victor Vito.

Hansen said no thought would be given to bringing in Todd should Thomson be ruled out - teams can make changes to their World Cup squad up to 48 hours before a game. Todd will train with the All Blacks for the rest of the week but he wasn't being used as a David Pocock hybrid.

"Don't read too much into it,'' Hansen implored. "He's just at training. The poor bugger is just at training. That's it. We have plenty of people we can turn into David Pocock. Just put a green bib on them as say you're David Pocock.

"I hope it's been put to bed. I'm sick of reading about it."

It will only stop if and when the All Blacks win the World Cup.

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