James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Public backs McCaw to continue until next World Cup

Richie McCaw. Photo / Dean Purcell
Richie McCaw. Photo / Dean Purcell

New Zealanders want their experienced but ageing All Black captain Richie McCaw to play at next year's Rugby World Cup, a Herald-DigiPoll survey shows.

The poll asked whether the most capped All Black in history, with 124 tests, should retire before the tournament in England kicks off in September 2015 when McCaw will be a few months short of his 35th birthday.

Just over half of all men surveyed (50.6 per cent) said the country still needed McCaw while 54.8 per cent of women said he should not quit just yet.

Slightly fewer Aucklanders saw McCaw's worth (51.8 per cent) than the rest of New Zealand (53.3 per cent).

If McCaw runs on to the field to start against Argentina at Wembley Stadium in the All Blacks' opening match at the tournament he will be 34 years and 263 days old.

Former All Black Frank Bunce, who played his last test two months short of his 36th birthday, said given the highly-physical nature of McCaw's openside position he doubted his body would last as long as teammate Dan Carter's would. But he's changed his mind.

"Dan has taken a few knocks and this is his second sabbatical and even when he comes on he's not quite the Dan he was ... whereas Richie is not the Richie McCaw he was but he's still effective and he's still playing his part."

Although McCaw missed part of last season through injury, Bunce didn't doubt he could stay in shape despite admitting his own battles to stay motivated at the same stage.

"With every game there's 10 or 20 trainings and you're lacing up your boots and now the preparation includes video analysis and the like so there's a hell of a lot more preparation that goes with one game."

"If I only had to play games I would probably have lasted a bit longer."

Bunce said McCaw probably wouldn't have an issue playing under someone else as captain and with his experience would still contribute. He said McCaw could also consider playing elsewhere in the loose trio.

"Michael Jones reinvented himself as a six, could Richie do the same thing ? I'm not sure."

"Jerome [Kaino] is coming back and Liam [Messam] is going great guns ... so would you want someone who would be mid-30s by then and are they the best for a move to six given what's around ?"

He said McCaw's selection would be dependent on form and he didn't think he would wait for a "tap on the shoulder" if his playing time was up.

"McCaw has said he wants to be picked [as long as] he's the best and actually I have no doubt he will do that. If he thinks he's not at the top of his game, he's man enough to pull the pin."

The poll found just 21.3 per cent of men and 14.3 per cent of women thought McCaw should call it a day. A further 27.2 per cent of men and 30.3 per cent of women didn't know.

The 18-39 age group were the most emphatic that McCaw should stay on, with 56 per cent saying he should still be in the side.

- NZ Herald

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