June 20, 2010
Richie McCaw equalled Sean Fitzpatrick's record as the most successful All Blacks captain when he led his side to a 42-9 win over Wales here Saturday.
The All Blacks have now won 39 of the 45 games played under McCaw's leadership and with no sign of retirement he is in line to overtake Fitzpatrick who won 39 of 51 Tests as skipper before his playing career ended in 1997.
"A reflection on Richie's leadership -- 39 wins in 45 games is a pretty high percentage, so well done Rich," coach Graham Henry said as he congratulated McCaw after the match.
McCaw's first Test as captain was in Cardiff against Wales in 2004 when Tana Umaga was rested and the All Blacks scraped home 26-25 with the flanker realising he would have been in trouble at home had they lost.
"It was pretty tight. I wasn't thinking about it during the game, but maybe afterwards I thought it might be a bit nasty. A bit of relief, if I remember rightly," he said.
The significant of McCaw's record was somewhat overshadowed on the night, an emotional occasion as the last Test to be played at the famed Carisbrook ground and the solo performance of flyhalf Dan Carter who almost singlehandedly engineered the win.
After the All Blacks could count themselves lucky to lead 15-9 at halftime, Carter cut loose in the second half as the hosts piled on 27 unanswered points.
Carter's personal contribution to the scoreline was two tries, four conversions and three penalties to break open the match.
But he was quick to deflect personal praise to highlight McCaw's achievement.
"He's a class player right from his first Test match up to this one, nothing's changed," Carter said.
"He's always putting his body on the line and giving 100 percent. He's a captain who lets his actions do all the talking and inspires and motivates the guys around him to follow his lead. It's a real achievement."
Although he is not known as a demonstrative leader, McCaw can claim credit for the All Blacks' latest win over Wales as the match turned after he was seen openly berating his forwards early in the second half.
"I guess you've got to pick your times when you do that and I guess it worked," he said.
McCaw will get the chance to overtake Fitzpatrick, and notch up win number 40, when the All Blacks play Wales in the second Test in Hamilton next Saturday.