Richie McCaw has excelled even his high standards with the manner in which he explained his decision not to accept a knighthood in the New Year Honours.

He managed to make it perfectly clear, without saying so, that his decision in no way reflects his view of the value of a titular honour or of those who accept one. He simply decided it was not for him.

Others may want to invoke his decision to argue for the abolition of knighthoods, which is probably why he refused interviews on the subject and confined his comment to a prepared statement on social media.

He delivered it with the familiar drawl that makes everything he says sound unrehearsed, which it probably is.

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He has been compared at times to Sir Colin Meads, Sir Brian Lochore, the late Sir Wilson Whineray, even Sir Edmund Hillary, in his stature in rugby and as a model of the Kiwi character.

He has won an honour all his own in that company with the decision to remain plain Richie, though time might bring confusion. He would not be the first prominent figure to be given a title in common reference because people assume he has one.

Perhaps he will be formally offered one again, at some later time, if his status in the nation's life has long outlasted his playing career.

But for now we can admire the grace of his explanation and observe that his admission to the Order of New Zealand has enhanced our highest honour.