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Canterbury skipper Richie McCaw will lead the Crusaders in this year's Super 12 rugby competition.

The star flanker will take over the Crusaders captaincy from former test skipper Reuben Thorne, who led the team to three Super 12 finals and one title in three seasons at the helm.

McCaw said it was "a bit of a surprise" when coach Robbie Deans offered the captaincy last week.

"But I didn't need too much time to think about it," he said.

The 24-year-old led Canterbury to the NPC title in 2004 in his first year as the red-and-blacks' captain.

He also captained the All Blacks in a test for the first time, in the 26-25 win over Wales at Cardiff on November 21 last year.

"If you'd asked me a couple of years ago if I would have done that by the age of 24, I wouldn't have thought so," McCaw said.

But he said the coaches who had appointed him to the various roles "reckoned I could do it" and he gained a lot of confidence from their faith in him.

"I really enjoyed doing it for Canterbury during the NPC, and captaining the Crusaders will be quite an honour."

But McCaw is playing down any talk of a captaincy trifecta, saying he expects incumbent Tana Umaga to lead the All Blacks in this year's home series against the British Lions.

"I was captain for one game. Tana is still there and I presume the coaches will have him in for this year. I see my role, firstly, to play well enough to get back into the team. That's the way I approach it."

McCaw will have plenty of leadership support with Thorne, Justin Marshall, Aaron Mauger and Sam Broomhall all having captaincy experience at representative or international level.