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McCaw at the heart of All Blacks

2015-10-31 10:00
Richie McCaw (Gallo Images)

London - Like the All Blacks juggernaut that he has led with distinction, Richie McCaw has kept evolving and at the age of 34 his hunger for success and focus is as intense as ever.

That the game's outstanding loose forward has stood up to the demands of test rugby for so long is a reflection of his durability, enthusiasm, consistency and the way he relishes pressure.

New Zealand's most decorated captain has the chance on Saturday to do what no player as ever done -- lift the World Cup for a second time.

Already assured of his place in the pantheon of All Black greats and hailed as the best of all time by his coach Steve Hansen, McCaw's mental and physical resilience has defined a career he calls a privilege.

"When you grow up, you want to be an All Black. Every time I have done it, I always take a moment to realise how lucky you are to pull on the black jersey. You have to add to what has gone before you. That is the attitude I have," he said.

"Every time I play now I take a time during the week to think about it - after that feeling of excitement when you first get in you want to add to it, leave something of you behind."

McCaw's statistics show just how the three times World Rugby Player of the Year has made his mark since his test debut in 2001 -- a man of the match performance against Ireland that was a sign of things to come.

Of his 147 test appearances, an all-time record, he has celebrated victory on a remarkable 130 occasions and suffered defeat only 15 times.

Compare that to New Zealand's record since his debut when he has not been on the pitch -- they have won 10, lost seven and drawn one.

McCaw has led the All Blacks a remarkable 109 times yet he might never have reached that milestone had he stepped down, as he gave much thought to doing so, after New Zealand's 2007 World Cup failure when they were bundled out in the quarter-finals.

Concluding that he needed to "man up", McCaw stayed at the helm and four years later guided New Zealand to glory on home soil, despite being hindered by a broken foot.

Respected and revered in New Zealand, he is considered by some detractors as a master of the "dark arts", a player who plays the game on the edge of the game's laws.

Yet his disciplinary record has been impressive -- just three yellow cards as an All Black, including one at this World Cup which he termed "a dumb mistake".

McCaw has yet to announce whether retirement beckons, win or lose against Australia, but few expect him to throw his body into the fray much longer.

Not that he is considering the end just yet.

"That hasn't entered my mind at all. I will make a decision when I get home.

"I am going to have a good reflect at this. I haven't allowed myself to think beyond the final whistle. That lowers you into thoughts which are unhelpful for the game."

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