All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has extended his New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) contract until the end of 2011. The 27-year-old loose forward announced on Monday that he has committed to the All Blacks and New Zealand through to the next Rugby World Cup.
"The black jersey is the most important thing to me," McCaw stated. "Playing for the All Blacks is the ultimate and I'm really enjoying the Crusaders. There's more money available overseas, but personally, it wouldn't bring the same challenge."
NZRU CEO Steve Tew expressed delight at the agreement reached with the All Blacks captain: "Richie's commitment to New Zealand rugby is hugely significant for everyone involved in rugby in New Zealand. It shows how much the jersey means and that we can keep world-class players in New Zealand. Richie is recognised as the best openside flanker in the world and his extension is a positive sign that we can create the right environment in New Zealand rugby for players of his calibre."
McCaw's contract includes a sabbatical option, but the All Blacks flanker said that he currently has no plans to take it: "Right now, I'm feeling fresh mentally and my body seems to be handling the rugby ok so I have no plans for a sabbatical. I see myself playing here in New Zealand through to the next World Cup, but I appreciate that the sabbatical option is there to discuss with the NZRU in case things change over the next couple of seasons."
Richie McCaw made an irrepressible start to his rugby World Cup atonement against Ireland and today delivered more heartening news, the All Blacks’ captain is committed to a third quest to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.
McCaw announced a two-year extension to his current contract with New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU), a term that encompasses the 2011 World Cup, surely his last opportunity to emulate David Kirk and lift the symbol of rugby supremacy at Eden Park.
The 27-year-old's decision to remain loyal to the NZRU was hardly surprising but still a fillip for an organisation locked in damage control mode following the All Blacks quarterfinal exit in Cardiff last October.
A review of the World Cup campaign may have been critical of McCaw's leadership during the two-point loss to France but he is clearly seen as the player to lead the All Blacks on-field rehabilitation long term.
McCaw began his personal crusade with an inspiring performance during the 21-11 victory over the Irish in a frigid Wellington on Saturday and reiterated his playing future lay in New Zealand, though, like first five-eighth Daniel Carter, his new contract does incorporate a sabbatical clause.
But while Carter is poised to take a six-month working holiday in France at the end of November's Grand Slam tour, McCaw said playing overseas, while more lucrative, would not be as fulfilling.
Should McCaw opt to take a break it would be to allow his body to recuperate from the weekly pounding it sustains, and the Super 14 appears the only window as the national provincial competition is already practically off limits to All Blacks.
"Right now I'm feeling fresh mentally and my body seems to be handling the rugby OK so I have no plans for a sabbatical. It's there more for if you need a rest rather than going overseas. I see myself playing here in New Zealand through to the next World Cup," McCaw said.
However McCaw, who played his 60th test last weekend, said he appreciated a sabbatical was available to discuss with the NZRU "in case things change over the next couple of seasons".
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said although Carter and McCaw had sabbaticals built into their contracts, the option would remain a rarity.
"We've said we'll treat every case on its merits. It's not something we'd be comfortable with too many players exercising because we'd end up with a pretty piecemeal retention strategy. But for the guys committing for a longer term and those that have played a lot of rugby, we have to be careful how we manage them through that period," Tew said.
Tew was hoping the re-signing of McCaw and the impending extension of Carter's contract to include the 2011 World Cup are positive signs as the NZRU strives to regain support lost through the World Cup and retention of head coach Graham Henry.
"On top of the decision Dan is working through, we think Richie's decision is a good signal for the future. We're working to retain as much talent as we can and the economies of the English and French clubs makes it hard for us. We're aware we have to win the hearts and minds of our fans .... hopefully the sort of signals Richie and DC (Carter) are making will be part of that for us," Tew said.
An announcement on Carter's future was expected today but the identity of the French club that has secured his services, reportedly Tana Umaga's Toulon, remained under wraps.
Meanwhile, McCaw said he had not been inundated with offers from overseas clubs, probably because he had never expressed a desire to leave.
"In terms of people saying offers are coming in all the time, it's not really like that," he said.
ps to Tess : next time you make me freak out, be sure to have left new zealand before I arrive =)
ps to Richie : thank you very much for confirming our thoughts. Wishing you all the very best for the next seasons (with the Crusaders and with the All Blacks!)