McCartney ready for next challenge
Forward pressure of a South African kind lies ahead for the Blues at Albany on Friday and one prop forward, Tom McCartney is looking forward to the challenge that represents.
Central to that would be containing the danger represented by the Stormers' maul.
"Without giving away strategies, we've got a plan with what we want to do with that. We'll have to wait until the weekend to see if it works but you just can't take a backward step to those big guys or else they'll just rumble you the whole game," he said.
It's not without coincidence that experienced All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu is back to starting in the game and McCartney said that experience against South African sides would be invaluable for the Blues.
"He's been around and he's got lots of good tricks so if I'm, hopefully I'm not, but if anything is going wrong or I'm struggling with something I'm sure he'll have some answers for me that can help me through so that will be awesome," he said.
McCartney could be excused for wondering if he would ever be able to share a Blues team playing the sort of rugby it has produced this year. He had been through the lowest of lows last year with coach Pat Lam being sacked before the end of the season.
But a new group emerged from the ashes and having a fresh start with new players had been a boon for the side.
Those young players were excited and fresh, and the whole situation was boosted by everyone buying into the game plan suggested for the side.
The philosophies in how the respective coaching panels wanted to play the game were fairly similar, McCartney said, but the difference was there were four coaches this year with some significant experience whereas Lam last year had only himself and one other.
"With Graham Henry and Mick Byrne they can spread the work load a bit more and get more detailed on their area rather than Pat and one other trying to do it," he said.
The dynamism that had emerged in the side's back play had been a significant boost.
"There's nothing better than being a front rower when you've had your lineout or scrum and you look up and the backs have dotted down already and you can just run back to halfway. It's pretty awesome so that's the challenge for us up front, to make sure we give them good ball and we know what they can do if they do that," he said.
As a prop fashioned from a hooker, McCartney had enjoyed the number of starts he had been able to have on the loose head this year and had learned plenty, although he acknowledged there was a lot more to learn yet.
"I'm just trying to work as hard as I can but I think around the field the last couple of weeks JK [John Kirwan coach] has been on my back a bit about staying involved and don't have any periods of the game where I lapse off and relax so I'm just trying to make sure I keep running around the field and the scrum will take care of itself," he said.
While the Australian sides had lifted their performances this season, and having packed down against the Waratahs and Reds, McCartney felt the greatest scrummaging test was still to come when playing the Brumbies, who the Blues host in three weeks.
The Reds had a pack full of Australian internationals so there 'were no mugs' but it was the same across the whole competition which was different to when he first played Super 12 rugby there were a couple of games where you knew you would win easily. But that had changed and there were none of those games now.