The Greatest

Guest article by Salacious Crumb

unnamedTomorrow morning at 3am, England will take on the All Blacks in what has been billed as a portent for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

While much prematch commentary has focused on selections, auras and Hakas, one player will go about the business of representing his country for the 136th time in a test. The most ever for his country.

Regardless of the outcome either this weekend or next October, history will remember Richie McCaw as one of the sports true greats.

He should however, quite simply be judged the greatest All Black of all.

It is an oft repeated line that players of different eras cannot be compared but my argument is simple; no other player from any era has performed so consistently, at such a high level and for such a length of time as McCaw. More astonishing when one considers his playing position.

The modern number 7 is required to run up to 9km in a match at pace, attempt to steal the ball (while getting hit hard from opposition defenders), carry the ball into contact, tackle ball carriers, push at scrums and lift in lineouts. If you are a good player you can also expect some extra ‘attention’ from the opposition. It is a physically demanding and punishing position with an often short career span at the elite level.  

At 33, McCaw still outplays opposition flankers with nearly a decade of age advantage. Since his Man of the Match debut against Ireland in 2001 he has consistently been a point of difference between All Black teams and their opposition.

It is not just the incredible skill and relentlessness in which McCaw executes his role. He has evolved as the laws of the game have changed and such is his presence; rugby media, coaches and CEO’s have all voiced their opinions as to the legality of what he does in an attempt to blunt his impact. On the field of play, the off ball assaults have been just as consistent.

This weekend McCaw will also lead the All Blacks for the 99th time. He has won at every major test venue in the world and has won more tests as captain than any other All Black captain.

A recipient of three IRB Player of the Year awards for which he has been nominated on no less than eight occasions, he has also received two Sportsman of the Year titles at the New Zealand Halberg Awards.

Off field, there is never a sniff of controversy or scandal. His reputation is beyond reproach and all who have had dealings with the man speak of intelligence, warmth, integrity and humility.

His actions, alongside Springbok A J Ventnor, in defending Irish referee David McHugh from an on field assault; that he played the 2011 Rugby World Cup with a bone fracture in his right foot which prevented him from training and his exemplary sportsmanship whilst admitting his hatred of losing all perfect summations of his core values.

Leadership is a greatly valued commodity in rugby and over his career McCaw has developed into the sort of captain any sporting organisation would greatly prize. A leader whose team so utterly believe in him, that there is no such thing as defeat in their eyes and no situation that cannot be overcome.

It is often well after a player retires that his career is analysed, his contributions noted and achievements lauded. Then the comparisons begin.

In the case of Richie McCaw there will be no comparison.

It will be my privilege to tell future generations that I remember seeing him play. The greatest All Black of all.

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