Midi Olympique newspaper (Monday October 24th)
He had already won Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, or Tri Nations with the All Blacks. But he had only dreamt about how it was to touch the World Cup. Last Sunday, at the heart of Auckland's Eden park, despite the massive pressure on his shoulders, he finally got the taste of his dream. And a whole nation's too.
Sunday Oct 23rd 2011. Eden Park Stadium, Auckland. The stands are shivering, some quake is spreading all around New zealand. For some seconds, time is suspending, History stops. For eternity. It's 11pm, 24 years after David Kirk, All Black captain in 1987, Richie McCaw, his heir, is raising the William Webb Ellis Trophy. It's more than a sport accomplishment, it's the dream of a whole nation which comes true. In the country of the long and white cloud, it's been a long wait, and the pressure was huge.
"It's a team of 4 million people you'll have to beat", IRB President Frenchman Bernard Lapasset had warned before the launch of the competition. Because in New zealand, rugby is not just a sport. It's a way of life, a real religion.
FULL TIME CAPTAIN
As the All Blacks captain, Richie Mccaw had a huge responsibility during the tournament. Some responsability he admits it took some time to carry.
"For a long time, I was captain because the others had decided for me. Until 2007, I didn't really know how big it was."
Sean Fitzpatrick, former AB captain, tends to say that when you are AB captain, it's a full time job. In the past weeks, Richie McCaw was the most scrutinized man, the most listened to (after PM Jonh Key). So much so that the PM, who is running for an election, had warned : if the ABs become World Champions, Richie would become Sir Richard Mccaw. Huge honor for this countr. "On the other hand, if they lose, he might become some Guinea pig for the new police tasers gun", Foreign Affairs and RWC Minister Murray McCully added. This statement was full of humour but powerful in meaning....
The past few weeks, every single moves and facts about Richie was seen, spied, analysed. In NZ, Richie is the equivalent of Zidane for us in France. Here he is often praised, rarely hated, but never ignored. Because he looks like NZ countryside, his character is close to the nation. The ideal son-in-law. Richie McCaw grew up in Oamaru, Otago. He is the child of farmers, he knows the values of a country who loves him deeply, a country he will never leave no matter how big the check from some Top14 club is!
Richie Mccaw is 2011 Colin Meads, his cowboy face, his simple but humble words. He looks like anybody else and especially not the geniuses who surround him : Israel Dagg, Cory jane, Jerome Kaino or even SBW, who were all raised in the US culture, caps on their heads and flashy tops.
But during this RWC, his physical ability* was at the center of all talks. When he forfeited agaisnt Japan because of his soring foot (he was operated on in February this year and missed 2 months of Super Rugby competition), he was supposed to play his 100th in Hamilton (a first time for the country!), and New Zealand worried. When he forfeited again against Canada, it was almost crazyness. Questions were raised, and so were doubts.
The week before the semi against Australia, his foot injury was so painful that he couldn't wear his rugby boots! Four million NZ-ers were waiting for the reports from the medical staff. Play, or not? Tv channels, radios, newspapers, everything was about Richie Mccaw. Especially since Dan Carter's injury a few days before.
Of course, the player from the Crusaders has often seen what it means to be All Black captain. In 2007, after the defeat against France in Cardiff, with his teammates, he had faced the worst defeat of his career. When they returned to NZ, teh ABs were booed, their luggage had been tagged by Auckland's Airport workers**
"I grew up on a farm in the South. Coming from there, I had never imagined that it would be like that, but what can we do?", he said at the time. "nZ is such a small country. Rugby is put on a pedestal ; it would be great sometimes to be able to shop or have a bier without people coming and talking to you. But anytime I think that, I ask myself : would you be elsewhere? And the answer remains non."
FULL OF 'MANA'
Richie McCaw knows he is privileged. Never in the History of NZ Rugby had a captain the opportunity to lead his team in two world cups. In 2007, after Cardiff's fiasco, his leadership had been questioned by the media. But just as his coach, Graham Henry, Richie McCaw bounded back. He means a lot to his teammates. Maoris call it "mana", natural authority and prestige from the Wise.
Richie is full of 'mana'. He is without doubt the team leader.
"I have no doubt on the fact that he will become the most powerful captain in the History of the All Blacks", Graham henry said long before this weekend's final.
On Sunday night, Richie Mccaw who had confessed the day before wanting to let a "legacy" proved him right.
**NOTE : if this story rings a bell to anyone, please let me know. I know things happened after the 2003 defeat, but I don't think the same happened 4 years ago. I'd like to get your view on the dates. Thanks. Mary*L
*ability is not the correct word but I cant find the word. I hope it won't change the meaning... and I do hope you understood my translation! thanks for your understanding. Mary*L
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Translated by Mary*L