2011 RICHIE MCCAW
POSITION: Flanker AGE ON DEBUT: 20 AGE WHEN FIRST CAPTAIN: 23 CAPS BEFORE BECOMING CAPTAIN: 24 TESTS AS CAPTAIN: 101 TOTAL CAPS: 137 KEY QUALITIES: World Class player. Intelligent. Composed. Connected. Flexible in his thinking. Man of the people. Deep understanding of the brain. Incredible work ethic and discipline.
The McCaw principle of captaincy begins with his role as player. To be a good captain, he says he has to be the best player and for most, probably all of his career, that’s been the case.
McCaw has been an outstanding openside since his first test. Few would dispute that he has been the best No 7 New Zealand has produced. He can’t match the athleticism of Michael Jones, but he’s taken bravery, commitment, determination and work ethic to new levels.
McCaw pulls off an incredible number of tackles and turnovers; he’s an improved ball carrier and his sheer desire enables him to be overly influential.
As a captain he brings intelligence. He brings his incredible standing in the game which gives him access to referees. He brings an inner calm and a deep understanding of how the brain works under pressure. That’s maybe the critical offering of McCaw – he knows how to stay connected mentally and to keep those around him task focused.
How many times have the All Blacks won late in the piece in recent years? How many times has the cause seemed lost only for McCaw to be still charging around, still calmly asking his players to trust in the process and believe they can win?
Those who know McCaw best say he is driven in a way no one else has been. He is first off the bus at training and first onto the field. He works harder than anyone else and his standards never slip. Really...they never slip. He doesn’t have bad days where he cuts corners or takes a rest. And then of course there is his experience – more than 100 tests as captain – he’s lived through about every scenario imaginable which is why nothing fazes him.