Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: McCaw shapes as greatest of them all

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All Blacks captain Richie McCaw during the match against Argentina. Photo / Mark Mitchell
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw during the match against Argentina. Photo / Mark Mitchell

In exciting games and bad; at test, Super or provincial levels; rain, hail or shine; trench warfare or flamboyant fare. The more you see of Richie McCaw, the more you must marvel.

There was more to slosh than gush over as underdogs Argentina kept the hint of an upset alive in the waterlogged air on Saturday night.

As you peered through the rain there he was, R. McCaw, All Black captain and legend, on the Man of the Match leaderboard yet again. How the heck does he keep on keeping on in this relentless, bone-crunching arena? Rugby is so confrontational and tangled it may have overtaken league in toughness, but McCaw never flinches.

Remember too that he hardly ever gets substituted or rested. Remember also how the veteran was nobbled, yet hardly hobbled, during last year's World Cup on a foot injury that would have lowered more than a few.

Who is the greatest All Black? This has become a debatable topic because the game has changed so much.

Highly prepared professionals would run riot in the days of Sir Colin Meads if a time machine could take them there. Modern rugby is about as close to that 1960s stuff as soccer is to hockey.

The public who lauded Meads hardly ever saw him play, whereas McCaw lives under a high-definition microscope. We'll never know the Meads' knock-ons and missed tackles, nor how many goal kicks Don Clarke missed (a former colleague claims the conversion rate for conversions suggests quite a few.)

This is not an attempt to diminish those famous old players and their significance to people, not at all, but an effort to find terms of reference for any debate. Era by era is the best way to go. Players from around McCaw's age group, men without his responsibilities or workload, have come and long gone. Yet the McCaw mind and body remain strong. Right to the end, he charged up on defence against Argentina.

McCaw, who is 31, may struggle to maintain this level until the 2015 World Cup, but if anyone can ...

Bottom line: I've never seen a more influential footballer in any code. Along the way, McCaw has never let the game, team-mates or fans down. And if forced to pick the greatest of all All Blacks, I'd happily plump for Richie McCaw.

* Saturday night's test made another case for more indoor stadiums. Rugby is too difficult to play well in the wet for current demands.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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