Friday Sep 10, 2010
Most things are remarkable about Richie McCaw's All Black career.
His standards have been of such high quality since his 2001 test debut against Ireland at Lansdowne Rd that any rare blemishes look ghastly.
He has made only six losing speeches as skipper and tomorrow will lead the All Blacks for a record 52nd time as captain, eclipsing the mighty Sean Fitzpatrick.
Both Fitzpatrick and All Black coach Graham Henry have been effusive in their praise for McCaw's leadership as he prepares to tangle with the Wallabies tomorrow in Sydney.
Henry, in particular, knows how fortunate he has been to have a player of McCaw's calibre and integrity in his side for so long.
Legendary leader Fitzpatrick also knows a bit about leadership.
He dished out the superlatives about McCaw's record reign as captain and later this season should be doing it again as McCaw passes his record for All Black caps.
"I think he's very comfortable with his position and he's playing the best rugby of his career," Fitzpatrick said.
"He has a great feeling for his team and Richie is respected by the whole team and the whole of New Zealand."
Henry has no qualms about rating his leader as the outstanding player on the planet.
"He is the most influential player in the world right now," Henry said.
McCaw has lost only 10 times in the All Black jersey and this season, when many were uncertain about his continued impact under the revised laws, he has reinvented his style.
He has grown into the leadership role, just as Fitzpatrick did. He has been enormously influential within the All Black group as a mentor, leader and player.
His influence is right alongside Fitzpatrick's.
The only blemishes in McCaw's stellar career have been the World Cup failures in 2003 and 2007. He is contracted to the next tournament and may sign on again soon for more rugby in New Zealand after that.
He knows New Zealand expects the All Blacks will repeat their opening World Cup triumph of 1987 but says his team just has to concentrate on enjoying their rugby through to the end of this season.
"I'd love to win it," he said, "but I don't get hung up to the point that it ruins my life."
First, though, he wants to win at Sydney tomorrow, then Hong Kong, then the Grand Slam. You get the drift. McCaw wants his men to think now and let the future take care of itself.
If they do that and play like their captain, they will have honoured his reputation.
By Wynne Gray