All Blacks: Another vintage McCaw year

By Cameron McMillan

Richie McCaw says the current All Blacks side is one of the best is has played in. Photo / Getty Images
Richie McCaw says the current All Blacks side is one of the best is has played in. Photo / Getty Images

This year will go down as another outstanding season for All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, despite suffering defeat in the final test of 2012.

McCaw is looking to cap off the year by becoming the first person to be named the Kelvin R Tremain Memorial player of the year for a fourth time after leading the side to 12 victories from 14 tests. They suffered one defeat to England and also drew 18-18 with Australia.

McCaw is nominated for the top gong at tonight's awards in Auckland along with 2010 winner Kieran Read and centre Conrad Smith.

After finishing his 12th season in the All Blacks, this year has added to McCaw's growing legacy which seemingly reached a new height in October last year when he lifted the Rugby World Cup.

But the 31-year-old didn't stop there, leading the All Blacks through a 20-match unbeaten run which finally came to an end at Twickenham.

The 116-test flanker said it's been a satisfying year for the side.

"Twelve months ago we'd come off winning a World Cup,'' McCaw told Total Rugby Radio.

"I think it would have been easy to sit back and enjoy that but I sort of feel, especially from the All Black point of view, we've been able to maintain the level we're after and it's been a pretty satisfying year.''

Unlike previous world champions, the All Blacks have continued to perform in the following season - claiming the Rugby Championship, retaining the Bledisloe Cup and going 80 minutes shy of an unbeaten season.

Asked if this is the best All Blacks side he's ever played in, McCaw said it came close.

"When you look at the results over the last 12-18 months, the results would say it's right up there. We've got some pretty talented guys - I think seven or eight over 30 who've all played a lot of tests and have all been at the top of international rugby for a while.

"I suppose when you look at that, it's one of the best All Blacks team I've been involved in, but then you go back through the years there's been some pretty talented players I've played alongside and played in teams with. It's pretty hard to judge, but this one here at the moment certainly would be up there.''

After another outstanding season in the black jersey, culminating with an IRB Player of the Year nomination won by teammate Dan Carter, McCaw is looking forward to a well-earned break and looking to get away to South America.

"I've given myself three months or so to head away and probably go to places where rugby's not so well known. You can sort of sneak around a bit anonymously I'm pretty keen to go to America and have a look around there. I haven't made any firm plans yet but that is my initial plan. Freshen up a wee bit and get yourself ready to go again, that's what I'm looking forward to.

"My job is to get the right break I need and cone back ready to go, fit, fresh and excited and hopefully be around for a bit longer yet.''

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