Chris Rattue recalls seven unforgettable memories from a great number seven, Richie McCaw.
1) The Debut (v Ireland, Dublin, 2001)
The 20-year-old McCaw was thrown in the deep end, after a top-class career of just 17 NPC matches. But he was surrounded by a lot of friends in front of a 49,000 crowd at Lansdowne Rd Stadium - apart from captain Anton Oliver, the rest of the pack were McCaw's Canterbury comrades. So it was a sort of home away from home, and McCaw starred in the 40 - 29 win, being named man-of-the-match. Accolades tumbled down. McCaw said he initially struggled at the breakdown, because Ireland were smarter at sealing the ball off than he was used to. He got better as the game went on. "It was a hell of a stadium to play at, a real rugby stadium, a big crowd - something I'll always remember, very special," said McCaw.
2) The Tackle - 1 (v South Africa, Durban, 2002)
McCaw was first to get in a rescuing tackle after drunken Springbok fan Pieter van Zyl trundled on to the field in Durban and attacked Irish referee David McHugh. With such a long career, McCaw was more likely than most to face some crazy situations. In typical McCaw fashion, he knew what to do and simply got on with it.
3) The Tackle - 2 (v Australia, Brisbane, 2006)
One of his greatest games, with an iconic moment. In the third quarter, McCaw went on a long, flying diagonal run to cut down Wallabies back Mark Gerrard near the corner, completing the turnover for good measure. He made a staggering 19 tackles in the game, and was widely perceived to be The Difference between the sides in a 19 - 9 victory. McCaw's all-action game kept Australia tryless for the first time in three years, playing at a stadium known as Fortress Suncorp. On McCaw, coach Graham Henry said: "You can't play better than that". Gerrard was even more effusive "He's anywhere and everywhere . . . it seemed like we were playing four or five of him," the winger said.
4) The World Cup final victory - 1 (v France, Auckland, 2011)
New Zealand's 8 - 7 win should be known as the Battle of Broken Foot. This is his finest moment. When McCaw finally reveals the truth about the injury in The Open Side written with Greg McGee, the details are quite unbelievable. He hid the truth about his foot from team mates and coaches during the tournament, and refused an x-ray for fear it would prove there was a break. It felt like he was standing on hot coals. He relied on painkillers, adrenaline and willpower. But getting on and off the field was "complete agony". Mental skills staff helped get him through and he had to "grit his teeth" to ensure he walked normally.
Five minutes into the semifinal against Australia, he felt "a clunk or a pop or a crack" and almost limped off. During the semi, he made a stunning turnover, flying over the back of centre Anthony Fainga'a and stealing the ball while landing upside down. Injury, what injury? McCaw wrote: "...there's no point in freaking them (the coaches)...I just keep telling them I'll be right. Even if I don't train at all, I can still go out and perform." The one and only...