By Alistair McMurran on Wed, 10 Jun 2009
Richie McCaw was aged 13 when he watched his first rugby test from the Neville Street Stand at Carisbrook in 1994, when the All Blacks beat the Springboks.
He was the young boy from Kurow who was in his first year as a boarder at School House, the Otago Boys High School hostel.
That experience stirred his rugby ambitions and led to him becoming All Black captain and the best openside flanker in the world.
His own experience highlighted how important it is it for test matches to continue to be held in Dunedin.
"It is important for kids in this region to go and watch the All Blacks play," McCaw told the Otago Daily Times yesterday. "If you never see the All Blacks down here, it won't be the same.
"I enjoy playing rugby in Dunedin, and it will be exciting with the new stadium."
McCaw expects the All Blacks to beat France at Carisbrook on Saturday.
"There are new caps in the team with the excitement to get things going," he said. "There is also enough experience to get the team through the hard patches. It is important to start the season with a win."
McCaw's busy day in Dunedin yesterday began with a talk to 250 people at the leaders' breakfast organised by the Otago Secondary Schools Sports Association that was attended by pupils from 23 Otago schools and members of the Otago Boys High School Foundation.
He then spoke to the Blues Assembly at Otago Boys High School, and assisted with the All Blacks training at Carisbrook before flying back to Christchurch.
"I came down for a couple of days to help the loose forwards and new captain Mils Muliaina," he said.
"But I don't want to get too carried away, because I'm in the background and don't want to get in the players' way."
McCaw will return to Dunedin on Saturday for the test and will fill a similar role before the second test at Wellington.
The knee injury he suffered in the Super-14 semi-final against the Bulls is improving and he is confident of being fit for the Tri-Nations series.
"It's been a wee bit frustrating but I will be back jogging next week," he said. "It's been annoying, but I think I'm on track."
McCaw made a decision to study at Lincoln University when he was head boy at Otago Boys High School. Des Smith, the regional director of the Otago Secondary Schools Sports Association, was manager of the Otago NPC team at the time and attempted to persuade him to stay in Dunedin and study at the University of Otago.
At that time, McCaw did not see himself having a career path in rugby and believed that Lincoln University would give him the best training to become a financial adviser to farmers.
"I did not see rugby as my career until I made the New Zealand under-19 team that was coached by former All Black Mark Shaw," he said. Shaw "told us that because we had got this far there was no reason why we should not become All Blacks. I then saw it as a realistic goal".
McCaw played his first test against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in 2001, when the All Blacks won 40-29.
"That first test was important to me. It was the only All Black jersey I've got framed," he said.
McCaw's passion outside rugby is flying and he uses it as a way to relax. He is qualifying for his commercial licence.
Richie McCaw's keys to All Black leadership
• Be Yourself: "I followed Tana Umaga in the role and quickly learnt that I had to be my own man and do it my way."
• Lead by example: "You have to walk the talk. If there is a gap between words and actions you are in trouble."
• All Black captain is a leader of leaders: "Early on I thought I had to do it all myself. I now use others. This is one of the biggest things I learnt in the last four years."
• Demand high standards: "If you set high standards for yourself you will be respected and followed when you tell others what to do."