Auckland - Richie McCaw was given the fitting reward of a winning 100th Test appearance as the All Blacks restated their World Cup favouritism with a thumping win over France on Saturday.
The warrior openside flanker was delighted to have led New Zealand to an emphatic, five-try, 37-17 victory over their World Cup nemesis, roared on by a 60 000 full house at Eden Park.
McCaw, 30, was presented with a special cap after the match to mark his 100th Test as All Black supporters chanted, "Richie, Richie."
"I'm pretty lost for words. You never want to put personal achievements ahead of the team but to do it in front of your home fans, in a World Cup, playing the French, I could not think of anything better," he told the crowd.
"Every single minute I have played in the jersey for the All Blacks, huge memories. I love it just as much today as I did the first time I put the jersey on.
"It's a team sport and you can't do it without your team-mates. The All Blacks jersey is a special thing to me, every time you put it on you reflect how special it is and I get the chance to do that."
McCaw was afforded the celebration that was denied to his Springbok counterpart John Smit, whose 100th Test ended in a bitter-sweet 29-22 defeat to the All Blacks in Soweto last year.
Smit's fellow Springbok great Victor Matfield also lost his 100th Test.
"I didn't know that. It's interesting with personal stuff in a middle of a tournament, you don't want to get too carried away," McCaw said.
"But it's something I'll reflect on later tonight and it's nice to have a good memory of a good performance from the team and personally not too bad as well.
"It's nice to have a positive. I saw when we scored that last try in John's 100th Test and it was pretty heartbreaking for him, and I'm pleased it didn't happen to me."
McCaw became the first All Black to play a century of Tests for his country, against the perfect backdrop of a capacity crowd at the citadel of New Zealand rugby.
"I guess personally it was nice to be out there in a big Test match like that, to tick that one off. It's a special memory I'll have," he said.
"I tried to go about it like I've done every other Test. You don't want to get out there and not perform."
Coach Graham Henry described McCaw as not only an inspiration to his team but also to his country.
"He's a special player, a special man and inspirational to the country, not only inspirational to this rugby team but an inspiration to New Zealanders," Henry said.
"He's a world-class player, he's been the IRB World Player-of-the-Year three times, which has never happened before."
McCaw's All Black team-mates said they wanted to win Saturday's match for their skipper.
"We were doing it for Richie. The focus was on doing it for him rather than what happened four years ago (when the All Blacks lost to France in the World Cup quarter-finals)," flyhalf Dan Carter said.
Flanker Jerome Kaino said: "He means a lot to this team. He hasn't spoken much about his 100th game but the boys really wanted to go out there and put in a good performance for ourselves, but also for Richie."