With his six-month sabbatical looming, the influence of Richie McCaw this week is likely to be more intense than normal. The All Black skipper won't want to sign off with anything other than a victory at Twickenham.

He may also have an extra incentive in that one more big effort individually will see him sign off as the IRB Player of the Year for the fourth time.

The six-man shortlist will shortly be revealed and the credibility of the award will nose-dive if McCaw is not on it and dip significantly if he doesn't win it. The question for the judges is can they really convince themselves that there has been a better, more consistent, more influential player in world rugby this year than McCaw?

There have been some seriously good contenders. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has been dynamic, inspirational and, frankly, a class act all season. He has to be on the short-list. Kieran Read has been superb as well - a bruising ball-carrier, perpetual motion and fearless.


He has to be there.

Bryan Habana delivered emphatic proof he can still score tries and make something out of nothing, while continuing with his immaculate defence and kick-chase game.

George North, Dan Lydiate and Leigh Halfpenny were integral components of Wales' Grand Slam campaign, Nathan Sharpe defied his age and played better than he ever has and then there are a handful of All Blacks such as Cory Jane, Daniel Carter, Israel Dagg, Conrad Smith and Tony Woodcock who have been consistently good at the highest level.

But was anyone actually consistently better than McCaw in 2012?