LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Richie McCaw lifted the World Cup for a second time 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 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.
“When you grow up, you want to be an All Black. Every time I have done it, I always take a moment to realise how lucky you are to pull on the black jersey. You have to add to what has gone before you. That is the attitude I have,” he said.
“Every time I play now I take a time during the week to think about it - after that feeling of excitement when you first get in you want to add to it, leave something of you behind.”
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.
Respected and revered in New Zealand, he is considered by some detractors as a master of the “dark arts”, a player who plays the game on the edge of the game’s laws.
Yet his disciplinary record has been impressive: just three yellow cards as an All Black, including one at this World Cup which he termed “a dumb mistake”. (Editing by Jon Boyle)