Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: McCaw out of the spotlight

While focus is on fellow veteran Dan Carter, the big man will be working quietly away.

The focus this week will be almost exclusively on one half of the old guard. Dan Carter will win his 100th cap at Twickenham and rightly be the man of the moment: his career dissected, his achievements lauded and his importance to both the past and future of the All Blacks discussed at length.

That will suit the other half of the old guard just fine. Richie McCaw can get on quietly with preparing his side, mercifully free of distraction. He's not the sort to say much, but he's keen to put the record straight this week.

A 21-38 loss to England last year was painful enough. But it was the nature of England's performance that left such an indelible mark on the All Black psyche.

The men in white were outstanding and the score even threatened to get out of hand. England were rampant and the memory still hurts McCaw. It remains the All Blacks' only defeat in their last 33 tests - and some of the nasty taste can be expunged with a quality, controlled, high-tempo, accurate performance on Saturday.

McCaw's role in delivering that will be critical. He achieved his own significant landmark in Paris when he became the most experienced test captain in the history of the game. The 26-19 victory was his 85th as captain and saw him edge ahead of Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll.

Every bit of that experience was on show. It was a night where McCaw was in his element - right in the middle of the trench, hard hat on. It wasn't so much the volume of his defence that impressed as the brutality and accuracy.

It was a game where his physicality was inspiring. Several times big defence was required to halt French runners and shift the momentum. McCaw made those tackles. Perhaps it's an optical illusion but he does appear to be more muscular this year. He looks and plays like a bigger man in the contact zones - again, something that will matter against England.

The foundation stone of his captaincy has always been his form. He's always said he'll lead with actions first, words second. That's why he's lasted so long and that's why so many of the younger players in this All Black squad hold him in awe.

The most-capped captains

Richie McCaw
Total tests: 122
As captain: 85
Total win ratio: 89 per cent

Brian O'Driscoll [Ireland]
Total tests: 134
As captain: 84
Win ratio: 66 per cent

John Smit [South Africa]
Total tests: 111
As captain: 83
Win ratio: 66 per cent

Will Carling [England]
Total tests: 72
As captain: 59
Win ratio: 75 per cent

George Gregan [Australia]
Total tests: 139
As captain: 59
Win ratio: 58 per cent

- NZ Herald

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