'A Captain's Cup' - an exclusive eight-part Radio Sport podcast series every Friday in which Louis Herman-Watt and Daniel McHardy interview every Rugby World Cup-winning captain. In part 8, Richie McCaw going back-to-back in 2015.

Expelling the baggage of such long-held mental burdens forced the All Blacks to seek new motivation as they plotted their quest towards the 2015 World Cup.

That came in the form of intent to carry the world champion tag with pride, knowing the target was firmly imprinted on their backs.



Richie McCaw recalls Steve Hansen's promotion to head coach bringing with it a different flavour, a reinvigoration. A fresh wave of talent followed too; Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, Dane Coles, Sam Cane and Julian Savea among the initial intake which kept established players on their toes.

A Captain's Cup podcast, part 7: Richie McCaw and the 2011 All Blacks
A Captain's Cup podcast, part 6: John Smit and the 2007 Springboks
A Captain's Cup podcast, part 4: John Eales and the 1999 Wallabies
A Captain's Cup podcast, part 5: Martin Johnson and England's 2003 triumph

Hansen made sure no one was comfortable or content. This was the All Blacks, after all.

"It would have been easy to accept that you've got to the top of the mountain and it doesn't matter if you don't stay there," McCaw said about ending New Zealand's 24-year World Cup agony.

"I remember one of the discussions is you carry the tag of world champion around so our job is to go and play like that and not let standards slip because everyone wants to knock off the world champs. We want to make sure you don't get that easy."

It was 2012, and the start of another four-year cycle. McCaw had already attended three World Cups but never gave a second thought to fading off into the sunset. No, he wanted to lead continued improvement from the top down.

"From my point of view, I didn't have any interest in looking overseas. I saw another four years was achievable. I still had areas I wanted to be better in as a captain. I had only scratched the surface. I felt I could be a better player and I thought the team could be better and I wanted to be part of that. The World Cup was a way of really measuring where you're at."

The attitude of the All Blacks during this period, which featured 49 wins, three losses, two draws, a stretch of 17 victories in a row and the first unbeaten season in the professional era, can be summarised by the fact they didn't want to give anyone else any satisfaction.


Premium gold

"It takes a lot of effort to figure out ways to keep getting better. Steve Hansen and his crew and the senior players we had to really drive it but that's what keeps you stimulated."

Throughout this time the All Blacks were clearly dominant but, as with any World Cup, there are no guarantees.

As they trekked to the UK questions lingered around the fitness and form of several senior players, notably one Dan Carter, though he was not alone.

Unlike four years earlier, other than Tony Woodcock this time the All Blacks escaped major casualties. Carter, of course, delivered with three world-class performances to prove age was no barrier at the global showpiece.

The All Blacks celebrate Beauden Barrett's try in the 2015 World Cup final against Australia. Photo / Photosport
The All Blacks celebrate Beauden Barrett's try in the 2015 World Cup final against Australia. Photo / Photosport

"If you get the attitude right age is actually irrelevant as long as you can go and do the job. Those guys led the way.

"As one of those guys that makes me proud. You weren't just hanging in there to get to a World Cup and hope for the best. You were there to drive the team and make it successful and the young guys did there bit as well. That's one of the reasons we were successful because we had that mix spot on."

Drawing on experiences from close-fought contests and great last-quarter comebacks, the All Blacks survived a tense semifinal against the Springboks in the Twickenham rain.

In the end one superb Sam Whitelock lineout steel off Victor Matfield and Carter's sweetly struck dropped kick pushed them over the line. Both aspects they had worked hard to improve under pressure, having struggled to do so in previous instances.

"One of the things you learn with knockout games, no matter what sport you're in, the teams or individuals that win don't necessarily pull magic out of the hat they just don't let their performance drop when the heat comes on.

"It was pure relief in 2011 and satisfaction in 2015 but until you get your hands on the trophy it just finishes and that's the exciting part. When you're captain you're lucky to be the one handed it. You reflect on who's done what to get to that point. It's not an easy thing."

App users click here
The All Blacks are wary of an English team capable of matching their every move, The Silver Ferns look to stamp their dominance over Australia in Perth and we chat to kiwi sailor Bianca cook ahead of the PIC coastal classic. VIDEO / Sky sport / Mark Mitchell / NZRL