Quite simply the greatest back-row player there has ever been.
When you’re mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jones, you know you must be doing well, but Richie McCaw transcended that level long before he had reached his 100th Test.
His selection as captain at the tender age of 25, having won just 36 New Zealand caps, is often regarded as the moment Graham Henry changed generations within the All Black squad, having already changed the culture.
He has won three World Rugby Player of the Year awards, was the first All Black centurion and was awarded the Order of New Zealand in 2016, the country’s highest honour. We could go on…
Born in Oamaru to farmers descended from Scottish immigrants, McCaw only started playing rugby with any degree of seriousness when he went to Otago Boys’ High School.
He was also Head Boy there and caught the eyes of the national selectors in the national schools’ final, but lost out to three of his future Super Rugby peers in selection.
He headed instead to Christchurch to study agriculture and hoped to catch the eye of the Canterbury selectors instead, while he continued to fly gliders with his grandfather, a hobby he had enjoyed since the age of nine. He was close to graduating when professional rugby offers finally came his way.
McCaw, unlike many of his peers, only ever played for teams in New Zealand, specifically only turning out for Canterbury and the Crusaders – although he won more caps for New Zealand than he did for either!
He won six NPC titles with Canterbury and four Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, first becoming a regular player for both in 2002, although he had already made his mark at Canterbury when voted NPC Player of the Year in 2001.
He was chosen as Crusaders’ captain in 2005, leading them to three of the four Super Rugby titles he won.
When first selected to tour with the All Blacks, he had played only eight minutes of Super Rugby, prompting Josh Kronfeld to call the nomination ‘bloody incredible’ because of how little rugby McCaw had played. But McCaw had already captained the New Zealand U21 side and won Man of the Match on his debut against Ireland.
Concussions suffered in 2005 led McCaw to consider his future in the game, but he returned after a long absence to lead New Zealand to a whitewash series victory over the Lions.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) December 8, 2020
In 2007 McCaw was once again under fire after he led the team in their shock World Cup defeat to France, but when Henry was reinstated as coach he renamed McCaw captain almost immediately and was rewarded four years later when McCaw finally got his hands on the World Cup, having played most of the final with a broken foot.
Steve Hansen retained McCaw as captain after Henry stepped down, and McCaw took time off in 2013 to make sure he was in condition to retain the World Cup in 2015.
McCaw is married to former New Zealand hockey player Gemma Flynn, with whom he has two daughters, Charlotte and Grace.
As a result of his flying hobby and commitment, he is not only now a helicopter pilot who has run several rescue missions, but he was also awarded the position of honorary wing commander in the New Zealand Air Force.
He is also frequently seen participating in endurance events.
He is director and major shareholder at Christchurch Helicopters, as well as being only one of 20 holders (the maximum permitted) of the Order of New Zealand. He lives in an upmarket part of Christchurch and owns several properties.