GREG FORD - The Press
Graham Henry says Richie McCaw deserves to be held in the same esteem as the All Blacks' greatest captains Sir Brian Lochore, Sir Wilson Whineray and Sean Fitzpatrick.
McCaw, 30, confirmed rugby's worst-kept secret yesterday when he announced he had re-signed to New Zealand rugby for a further four years. While McCaw broke the news Henry sat in the shadows but was at his loquacious best when asked to articulate what it meant to have his key card for this year's World Cup (and beyond) locked in place.
"The best way for me to communicate what a fine leader McCaw is to tell you a story about him," he said.
"Back in 2008, I think it was, we were playing a test in South Africa. We didn't get back to our hotel until the early hours of the morning and the guys needed to be up at six in the morning to get to our next venue.
"Richie held a team meeting at 4.30am before they left with his leadership group to set the tone for the rest of the week. For me, when he did that, the next test match was won right there. He not only leads by example on the field, but is a settling influence for the team. He is a very, very good leader of men."
The question is how good? The answer will probably be provided in late October when the curtain closes on the World Cup. But for now at least his legacy, Henry says, compares favourably with All Blacks royalty – Lochore, Whineray and Fitzpatrick.
"You just need to look at his winning percentage. Although it is hard for me to compare him to Whineray for example, because I have not had the same amount to do with him as I have a Fitzy or a Tana Umaga, I don't think too many people would argue that McCaw is among our finest All Blacks captains. He has had that rare ability to adapt as a rugby player and as a leader and displays all the attributes of a great leader: courage, bravery and guts. We are very lucky to have him."
And so say all of us.