Wellington - Inspirational double Rugby
World Cup-winning All Blacks captain Richie McCaw announced his immediate
retirement on Thursday after a record 148 Tests, with a new career beckoning as
a commercial helicopter pilot.
"I'm going to be hanging up my boots,
the end of my rugby days," the 34-year-old said after opening his press
conference with a minute's silence for All Black legend Jonah Lomu, who died on
McCaw, a three-time World Rugby player of
the year, last month became the only captain to ever claim back-to-back World
Cups, the pinnacle of a career that has seen him anointed as one of the
McCaw said the time felt right to retire
after the 34-17 win over Australia in the tournament decider at Twickenham.
"That last game, to have that as the
lasting memory of the last time on the pitch -- pretty satisfying," he
During a 15-year career, McCaw earned an
unprecedented 148 Test caps, a feat made all the more impressive because he did
it in the gruelling role of flanker.
New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew said
McCaw was the best player he had ever signed.
"Richie's been the most influential
player of his generation, if not of all time," Tew said.
"His playing statistics tell the
story, but Richie has also made a very significant contribution off the field
Former Wallaby flank Phil Waugh, one of
McCaw's fiercest rivals at the breakdown, said the New Zealander would be
remembered as the greatest ever.
"He's the best rugby player of all
time," Waugh told Fox Sports. "He's won more trophies and medals than
any other player."
Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill
Pulver called him "one of the all-time greats of our game and the greatest
ever All Blacks captain".
McCaw said he would eventually become
involved in rugby again but for now would "step back".
"It's has been a hell of a ride,"
he said. "I don't sit here sad, I actually sit here just happy with what
I've done, the experiences I've had and looking forward to what's in the
A keen aviator, he revealed plans for a
post-rugby career as a commercial helicopter pilot.
"I am hugely passionate about it, it
will never replace the thrill of running out in front of 80 000 but it is not
far short of it," he said.
McCaw has already been in action since the
World Cup, using a chopper to help South Island winegrowers save their crops
from early-morning frost off the grapes.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen joked that
McCaw "couldn't catch, couldn't pass, couldn't run" when he first saw
him playing as a "pimply-faced schoolboy".
But Hansen said the outgoing skipper turned
himself into a legend through sheer hard work.
"You've got to pick the right time to
go and he couldn't have picked a better time," he said.
"He is on top of the heap, he's made
his own decision and we'll be forever grateful for what he has done for the All
Asked to nominate a three career
highlights, McCaw picked his Test debut in 2001, his second World Cup win and,
surprisingly, a shock quarter-final loss to France in the 2007 World Cup.
McCaw faced damning criticism of his
captaincy in the wake of the defeat but said the lessons learned were the
foundation for subsequent success.
"That may be a weird one to pick out,
but that's certainly made the last few years really enjoyable for what we've
achieved," he said.
Amid the tributes, rivals were also hoping
McCaw's departure would make the All Blacks more vulnerable, particularly since
fellow greats such as Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu are
"Losing Richie, they'll lose an aura
around him and that leadership, which is very difficult to replace," Waugh
The Sydney Morning Herald agreed, saying
arch-rivals Australia were on the rise just as the All Blacks faced "a
seismic changing of the guards".
"Without McCaw, the All Blacks lose
their cloak of invincibility, such was his presence on the field," it