WHEN Phil Waugh talks of his head-to-head clashes with Richie McCaw over the past nine years, he talks of contests that are literally head to head.Asked to recall the first time he played against his 29-year-old Crusaders nemesis, Waugh, 30, turns his memory clock way back to 2002. He cites a Waratahs trial match against the Crusaders at Blenheim on the South Island. “[It was] after his debut with the All Blacks [against Ireland in late 2001] … a trial game,” Waugh said. “It’s been a while now … He came on off the bench and played well. Since then we have been clashing heads.”Since that first encounter, Waugh has become accustomed to being asked about him.It has long seemed that Waugh has been reluctant to expand on McCaw’s game â?? some say to not surrender inside analysis, while others say the Waratahs flanker is simply loath to talk up an opponent for fear it will be seen as aweakness.Waugh conceded this week that while he respects every opponent, McCaw has one very important trait that sets him apart from the rest. He speaks of “his ability to read the game. He’s not overly fast, but his ability to read the game means he is generally in the right area at the right time.”There is no doubting that Waugh’s focus tonight will be to lead the Waratahs to their second victory from 10 visits to Christchurch. But he understands the significance that dominating McCaw might have on his Wallabies future.”Every game you go out and play you are representing yourself with the way you perform. Richie McCaw and the Crusaders is an important clash, but whilst he has been one of the top guys in the world in that position, it is still a contest you try to win every week against any opponent,” Waugh says.However, Waugh is bracing himself for the inevitable â?? that being, when the pair meet at the breakdown in the fight for ball possession.Waugh says the Waratahs are equipped to take on a Crusaders back row of McCaw at No.6, George Whitelock at No.7 and Kieran Read at No.8.Asked if McCaw being named at No. 6 rather than at No.7 has changed his game, Waugh says: “I don’t think it has changed his game a huge amount. They are obviously pretty happy with how Whitelock is going. For him to get back into the side they thought the balance was right to play him at six. They have a pretty hard on-the-ball back row, but it’s an important part of the game. We have three guys who are pretty hard on the ball as well.”Waugh was one of the first to express concern about the new interpretations by referees of the breakdown laws this year. He has since adapted to them well, like McCaw. “It varies. There are different games and different referees. They focus a lot on taking space out of the ball, rather than the ball itself.”