A large cross-section of the sporting community, including six retiring All Blacks, have been recognised in today's New Year Honours list.

Two-time Rugby World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw heads the list with his appointment to the Order of New Zealand - New Zealand's most senior honour that is restricted to just 20 living Kiwis.

Other sporting identities to be acknowledged for their contributions include world champion shearer David Fagan, former cricketer Stephen Boock, retired Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu, Gilbert Enoka and Dr John Mayhew.

Fagan officially becomes Sir David with his appointment to the knights companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, while the latter four were made officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

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Retiring internationals Krystal Forgesson (hockey), Hayley Bowden (football) and Jodi Brown (netball) were all appointed members of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

But it was rugby that dominated the list with several of McCaw's former national teammates recognised for their contribution to the game.

Dan Carter was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, while Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu were all appointed members of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Woodcock and Mealamu began their All Black international careers together on a fine night in Cardiff where their scrum aspirations were not helped by the poor condition of the muddy surface.

As they walked to the halftime break, the rolling noise of the 74,000 crowd challenged their emotions and nerves with Wales a point ahead and their fans singing about a night of unrivalled glory.

When the hubbub ceased and referee Tappe Henning blew the final whistle, the All Blacks had cracked on to a 43-17 victory.

Woodcock and Mealamu were still there at the end and would have finished their careers together had Woodcock not damaged a leg against Tonga in this year's Rugby World Cup pool match.

His persona and skills fitted the image of ironman All Black props through the ages. Unless asked to speak, he favoured his privacy and his conversation was usually brusque until scrum guru Mike Cron helped out with translations about the Woodcock's outstanding technique.

So Mealamu pushed on into the late stages of the RWC without his old mate who had been with him through much of the turmoil at the Blues which had been balanced by the extraordinary success of the men in black.

Mealamu played six of the RWC tests, all from the bench, with his impact as invaluable as his contributions to team discipline and standards.

He cranked his 36 year old legs through appearances which only Richie McCaw could emulate.

Mealamu was the smiling destroyer without a quit button whose mental reserves were the equal of any man in the All Black group. Unfailingly polite, Mealamu created an amazing record for someone who was a teenage flanker and an unwanted Super Rugby player at the start of his professional career.

There were similar positional changes for Carter in his early days at halfback and second five-eighths but everyone wanted the ice-cool tactician and goal-kicker in their side.

Outstanding performances wreathed his career to leave no doubt Carter is the best five-eighths in All Black history. The last few seasons were a struggle with injury and he needed his resolute will to make it back and hit the kill button once more during the sudden-death section of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Carter's test points haul of 1598 points was such an advantage for the All Blacks but it was his ability to work teammates into space, defend like a truck and take on the line which took his game to a level to match any of the champion five-eighths in history.

He was acclaimed most for his second test wizardry against the Lions in 2005 and is garnishing his personal and family life in France with a final hurrah for Racing Metro.

Nonu and Smith became the go-to midfield pairing for the All Blacks which rivalled anything the rest of the world could conjure. Initially, Nonu was dynamic and Smith slow to burn before they formed one of the great partnerships at many levels.

Rough and ready became sharp, agile, brutish and decisive together and from 2008, they were the top-notch duo for the All Black selectors.

They farewelled the test stage at Twickenham after a world record 61 tests together, both unbeaten in any World Cup combat.