By Justin Palmer
LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Richie McCaw became the first man to lift the Rugby World Cup twice on Saturday and whether or not he opts to call it a day as an All Black, his place as the greatest leader of a rugby team the game has seen is assured.
Like the New Zealand juggernaut he has led with such distinction, McCaw has kept evolving and at the age of 34 his hunger for success and focus has been as intense as ever.
That the game’s outstanding loose forward has stood up to the demands of test rugby for so long is a reflection of his durability, enthusiasm, consistency and the way he relishes pressure.
And he is not quite ready to bow out just yet.
“I still don’t want it to end. I‘m still part of this team, I‘m going to enjoy today, how can you have enough of this?,” he said after New Zealand beat Australia 34-17 to become World Cup winners for a record third time.
“I don’t think you ever have enough of it. If you get moments like this why would you ever call it a day.”
Already assured of his place in the pantheon of All Black greats and hailed as the best of all time by his coach Steve Hansen, McCaw’s mental and physical resilience has defined a career he calls a privilege.
”Having played in a wonderful World Cup final with a great bunch of men, I‘m just so proud and honoured to wear this jersey again today and I don’t think you can get enough of that. If you get moments like this, why would you ever call it a day?,’ he said, after being asked for the umpteenth time about his retirement plans.
“We’ve done it a lot of times over the years but to do it when it really counts in a World Cup final, it shows the calibre of the men we’ve got.”
McCaw’s statistics show just how the three times World Rugby Player of the Year has made his mark since his test debut in 2001, a man-of-the-match performance against Ireland that was a sign of things to come.
Of his 148 test appearances, an all-time record, he has celebrated victory on a remarkable 131 occasions and suffered defeat only 15 times.
Compare that to New Zealand’s record since his debut when he has not been on the pitch: they have won 10, lost seven and drawn one.
McCaw has led the All Blacks a remarkable 110 times yet he might never have reached that milestone had he stepped down after New Zealand’s 2007 World Cup failure, when they were bundled out in the quarter-finals.
Concluding that he needed to “man up”, McCaw stayed at the helm and four years later guided New Zealand to glory on home soil, despite being hindered by a broken foot.
Four years on McCaw could savour another triumph with the core of that 2011 side still in place.
“We said four years ago after the last one that we’d get on the road again with the end goal being playing here at Twickenham in a World Cup final and try and do something that no one else has done.”
“I‘m proud of the way the guys have done it today. We played damn good rugby there, then we lost the momentum in the second half but we kept our composure and came home strong, which has been a hallmark of this team the last four years.” (Editing by Jon Boyle/Mitch Phillips)