GREG FORD - The Press
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will stay loyal to New Zealand rugby for four more years.
One of the greatest players in New Zealand history, 30-year-old McCaw announced today he has re-signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) until 2015 and said he was confident he can see out the duration of his four year contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union.
The openside flanker follows the same path as Canterbury, Crusaders and All Blacks team-mate Dan Carter, who signed a four-year deal that included several clauses, including the opportunity to take a "sabbatical" or possibly a complete break from the sport.
McCaw said Carter's decision had played only a small part in his decision to stay.
"It was nice he made the same call," he told the news conference.
"I don't think I had the same interest that Dan did from overseas.
"I just always wanted the opportunity to stay in New Zealand."
McCaw said negotiations with the NZRU had been amicable after he made his intentions clear he wanted to stay.
"I didn't want to play that game [of playing overseas clubs off against the NZRU].
"As someone who is honest I did not want to be telling them crap. The NZRU has been fair and as long as you are being treated fair, I am very happy."
McCaw said he had mulled over his decision for six months. During his recent injury hiatus "the hunger to play" returned.
"The reasons why it took so long is I wanted to make sure it was the right thing to do. I didn't want to hang around if it wasn't.
"I love playing for the All Blacks and the Crusaders and want to hang around for a bit longer yet."
His contract contains a sabbatical but McCaw said he was unsure when he would take it.
He said his interest in playing overseas was minimal.
"But four years is a long time," he said.
"If I get burnt out it gives me a chance to take a break."
McCaw will be 34 at the world cup in England in 2015.
He said if or the NZRU feel that he is no longer capable of playing for the All Blacks there was a clause in their deal for them to part ways before the four years expires.
"A four-year deal is a big commitment from both parties and the reason for the flexibility is so both parties can sit around the table and go `where to from here'?
"There is nothing better than putting on the black jersey running out in front of 30,000 or 40,000 people. There is nothing better and I have not had enough of it yet."
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew, who is in London said McCaw would have the right to take a break from the game during his four-year tenure.
"We are delighted to retain Richie for a further four years. He is an inspiration both on and off the field and as our most capped Test captain and All Black, he will provide New Zealand rugby and the All Blacks with a very solid foundation to approach the next four years from 2012."
Tew said McCaw's rugby knowledge was invaluable, not only on the field but in the wider sense as well.
"Our game faces some real challenges and Richie's broader understanding of these and his commitment to the health of the game generally will be extremely important as we face those challenges."
McCaw and Carter's agent Warren Alcock said both contracts were complex and had differences.
"It has been important to recognise their differences and ensure this contract reflects those," Alcock said.
"Having said that, the process of signing two players who are critically important to the All Blacks was made a lot easier by having both negotiations largely working in tandem. Ultimately, any contract needs to reflect Richie's standing in the game and I'm confident this contract achieves that."
All Blacks Coach Graham Henry was understandably delighted.
"I have said this many times before: I think Richie McCaw is the most influential player in world rugby right now. His on-field impact is immense, he's an outstanding player who leads and inspires others by his actions.
"Since taking over the captaincy, Richie has continued to develop as a leader and his personal standards, commitment and direction of others are inspirational to the All Blacks. He is a unique New Zealander."
McCaw is the latest in a large group of current and recent All Blacks who have recommitted to New Zealand rugby after this year's Rugby World Cup, including hookers Keven Mealamu and Hikawera Elliot, Tony Woodcock and fellow-prop Ben Franks, locks Anthony Boric, Tom Donnelly and Sam Whitelock, loose forwards Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Daniel Braid, Liam Messam and Victor Vito, and backs Jimmy Cowan, Alby Mathewson, Daniel Carter, Colin Slade, Aaron Cruden, Conrad Smith, Benson Stanley, Israel Dagg and Ben Smith.