McCaw is one of the five greatest All Blacks ever

Frank O'Keeffe Roar Rookie

By Frank O'Keeffe, Frank O'Keeffe is a Roar Rookie

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    New Zealand captain Richie McCaw (left) and coach Graham Henry hold the Rugby World Cup. AAP/NZN Image/SNPA, David Rowland

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    Has there ever been a rugby player who has tormented Australia as much as Richie McCaw? I was contemplating this question today when I realized that not only was the answer no, but the answer was no by a good margin.

    Richie has been playing international rugby since 2003, and Australia has not won a Bledisloe Cup from 2003 onwards.

    His performances read like an endless list of tormenting moments.

    I recall a period in 2005 where pressure was put on Eddie Jones to play George Smith AND Phil Waugh, with the sole purpose of stopping Richie McCaw.

    In 2006 we all recall how Stirling Mortlock made an incredible break and passed the ball to Mark Gerrard, Richie McCaw ran him down, made an awesome tackle, slid to his feet, and ripped the ball away. It’s been compared to the Gregan tackle.

    In 2008, George Smith was Australia’s Super 14 Player of the Year, and enjoyed one of his greatest performances against New Zealand in Sydney. McCaw didn’t play.

    Confidence was high as Australia travelled to New Zealand, but King Richie was there to destroy Australia. The performance of McCaw lifted New Zealand to such an extent they won 40-15.

    McCaw, hands down, outplayed George Smith.

    There was a brief period from 2008-2009, before Kieran Read came into the squad and supplanted Rodney So’oialo, where the All Blacks were heavily reliant on McCaw.

    One All Black fan I know went on a rant that a rugby country as great as New Zealand shouldn’t be that reliant on McCaw.

    There were many poor, poor performances from New Zealand during this period, which people forget about. But these performances were primarily due to McCaw’s absence. Their backrow was so ineffective without him.

    Without McCaw, the All Blacks backrow had less direction.

    You could make a list of moments where McCaw utterly tormented Australia. I think right at the top of the list would be the 2010 Sydney Test, where Australia lost its 10th Test in a row.

    Pocock had a wonderful first-half, and did more in the match with regards to pilfering the ball. But McCaw and Reid came back in the second half with some incredible ball carries. I hadn’t seen McCaw play that role much before, but it demonstrated that the new rules hadn’t affected his game.

    It was an example of McCaw reinventing himself, and finding a new way (any way) to be effective and exploit Australia. The Wallabies prevented him from dominating in his usual way, so he just found another way that was just as good.

    It was a game where one man just wouldn’t accept defeat, and there was nothing you could do about it. Admittedly the Wallabies played poorly at times in that Test, but McCaw’s fight was incredible.

    The Test ended with a terrific tactical kick from Carter that didn’t go into touch. The Wallaby outside backs were put under pressure, the All Black back row ran over the top of them, and a penalty was given. Australia lost 19-18.

    McCaw and Carter are the Warne and McGrath of rugby union. Australia had Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Gilchrist etc, just as the All Blacks have had Hayman, Muliaina, and Woodcock. But there’s a crux to each side, and without it teams tend to struggle.

    After the 2005 Ashes Cricket Series I began to savour watching Shane Warne. He really had nothing to prove.

    He came back from suspension in 2004 and was Man of the Series in Sri Lanka, taking 26 wickets.

    Then in 2005 he gave us perhaps the most lasting sporting memory of his career ā€“ his one man performance against England.

    Australia lost the series, but I felt Warne had done everything in his career at that point. He had nothing left to prove. Perhaps you could nit-pick and say he could have performed against India, but that’s it.

    From then on in, watching Warne was more about pleasure for me. He would always go down as one of the greatest, and nothing he could do after that would make him greater.

    That’s how I feel about Richie McCaw. He’ll continue to pester Australia, but there’s not much in the future he can do, other than win Tests, which will add to what is as close to a perfect legacy as I may ever see in rugby.

    What more can a rugby player achieve?

    He’s won the Grand Slam twice, captained a side to the World Cup, won the Bledisloe Cup every year he’s played (including that annoying 10 Test streak), won the Tri Nations almost every year (three years excluded – 2004, 2009, and 2011),clean-swept the British and Irish Lions in 2005 and has a winning record, as a player, that’s almost incomparable.

    In a country that’s produced great players like Ken Gray, Colin Meads, Sir Brian Lochore, Kel Tremain, Ian Kirkpatrick, Sid Going, George Nepia, Sean Fitzpatrick, Zinzan Brooke and Michael Jones, really only Meads has a better legacy, doesn’t he?

    Can anybody list why these players are greater than McCaw?

    Like Meads, Sean Fitzpatrick has got a comparable legacy to McCaw – a World Cup (1987), the first series win in South Africa, a Lions series victory etc.

    But McCaw’s legacy is comparable to Fitzpatrick’s, and possibly even Meads’!

    McCaw is one of the five greatest All Blacks ever. I’m calling it.

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    The Crowd Says (258)

    • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:11am
      jameswm said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:11am | ! Report

      Which Wallaby has tormented the All Blacks the most?

      John Eales? Match-winning kick and his overall captaincy record against them?

      George Gregan? 4 more years.

      From left field, Sam Scott-Young? He who winked and blew kisses at them during the haka and (as legend has it, I haven’t checked) never lost a game against them.

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:15am
        Justin said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:15am | ! Report


        McCaw is a freak. Lucky for his body that rucking has been banished to history or he would be unrecognisable šŸ˜‰

        • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:30am
          jameswm said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:30am | ! Report

          Yeah I was wondering about Morty.

          How funny was that penalty against McCaw on the weekend? McCaw watched the replay on the big screen abd then had a chuckle with the touchie about how bad it was – that’s the way I read it. Typical from him he doesn’t roll away and just makes a nuisance of himself at the breakdown. I actually don’t think for the last couple of yars he’s been the player he was beforehand. He lets others do a lot of the hard work (Thorn, Read, Thomson etc) and plays incredibly cynically (more than before). Having said that, his injury in the WC could have caused some of his loss of effectiveness.

          I can’t remove the asterisk from his greatness, I’m afraid.

          • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:04am
            WQ said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:04am | ! Report

            And you never will because you can’t, your bias will not allow you!

            • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:07am
              jameswm said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:07am | ! Report

              Nothing to do with bias WQ. There are a huge bunch of ABs that I have greatly admired, even ones like hard man Frank Bunce. Christian Cullen is one of my all time favourite players, with Mark Ella and one or two others. He was a hog, but one of the most beautifully balanced runners on a rugby field.

              I struggle with McCaw though and that one penalty last Sunday was the perfect example of why.

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:47am
                PeterK said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:47am | ! Report

                totally agree. I find it impossible to put McCaw that high on the list when he is the most cynical cheat ever to play the game.

                I too admire other AB’s far more.

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 5:16pm
                WQ said | May 3rd 2012 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

                The All Blacks you mention whilst great Rugby players were not in the same ball park as McCaw. No other player influenced nor influences All Black Rugby as much as McCaw does.
                This is why you hate him, and I don’t blame you for it, during his reign as an All Black, the AB’s have completely dominated the Wallabies.

              • May 4th 2012 @ 8:16am
                Riccardo said | May 4th 2012 @ 8:16am | ! Report


                Your comment that Richie is the most cynical cheat to have ever played the game is one we hear all the time and not just from posters on the Roar.

                That clown de Villiers repeatedly called him a cheat. When this was put to your own Eddie Jones and Phil Waugh they said he offends no more than any other good openside, but it is his his skill at judging how the referee will interpret the breakdown that is the main reason for his success.

                Frankly these petty assertions, while tiresome and perhaps driven by resentment, are simply an endorsement of the man’s prowess.

                One suspects as we enter Test Season the whining will become a crescendo.

          • May 3rd 2012 @ 9:29pm
            ohtani's jacket said | May 3rd 2012 @ 9:29pm | ! Report

            McCaw regular lead the tackle count and first three to the breakdown even on one foot. I think you’re suffering from a case of McCawitis.

        • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:47am
          Jerry said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:47am | ! Report

          Nah, Mortlock – like Gregan – hung around and got spanked enough times to have dulled the edge. Eales retired at the peak of NZ frustration at not being able to beat the Wallabies.

          • Roar Guru

            May 3rd 2012 @ 11:03am
            Kane said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:03am | ! Report

            Hardly a comparison:

            Eales played the All Blacks a total of 20 times winning 11 of them for a win rate of 55%
            McCaw however has played the Wallabies a total of 26 times winning 21 of them for a win rate of 80.76%

            • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:44am
              PeterK said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:44am | ! Report

              total nonsense.

              Taking that logic ie win / ratio between ab’s and wallabies that a player has been onvolved in virtually every AB is better than Eales which is ludicrous.

              The historically ratio is about 70 – 30 percent.

              So McCaw involvelement is a miserly 10% better , Eales involvlement is 25% better.

              McCaw has increased the rate about 15% (10/70), Eales has increased the rate by 80% so by using a far more valid methodology Eales has had far more impact than MCcAW, SO NO COMPARISON.

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:53am
                Jerry said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:53am | ! Report

                “McCaw has increased the rate about 15% (10/70), Eales has increased the rate by 80%”

                Peter, stating the increase as a percentage of the actual rate is absurd, because it means that even if McCaw had won every single Bledisloe match he’d ever played in he’d be unable to match Eales 80% rate increase.

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 5:01pm
                WQ said | May 3rd 2012 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

                Talk about total nonsense!

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 5:36pm
                PeterK said | May 3rd 2012 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

                Jerry – I agree with you. I put it out there to show what you can do with stats.

                The whole methodology is wrong attributing the teams win / loss ratio to one man anyway.

                However if you must assume an indiviudals impact I believe the best way would be to look at the percentage of possible improvement so McCaw improved it 10% out of a possible 30% so a 1/3rd imrpovement. Eales improved it 25% from a possible 70% a 35% improvement ie a very similar impact , a line ball decision not worth arguing about.

                I just see so many using the AB’s win ratio and the way Kane did and its really wrong and misleading.

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 5:41pm
                Jerry said | May 3rd 2012 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

                Yeah, you can argue the toss all day when comparing stats – Another comparison might be to look at how each team performed when Eales & McCaw were injured/unavailable during their careers, but that would take more time than I can be bothered with.

                When comparing players it’s an inexact and subjective thing anyway – suffice to say I suspect both of them would rank in the top 10 of most people’s list of all time greats.

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 8:18pm
                Snobby Deans said | May 3rd 2012 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

                PeterK – what???

                How can you judge a player based on historical ratios? Eales played the All Blacks a number of times during possibly the most golden age of Australian rugby, and still only got a 55% return. Compared to most Wallabies, that’s a great result (A reasonable number never won a game against them).

                The article about McCaw is about the success over the 10 year period – and the comparison by Kane does just that – a 10 year comparison (2001 – 2011).

                Sorry mate, your argument, as one-eyed as it is, is NO COMPARISON

        • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:39am
          nickoldschool said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:39am | ! Report

          ahhh, nice one Justin!!! McCaw is the perfect n7…. of his era.

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:46am
        Jerry said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        Eales definitely – he played something like 20 tests and had a winning record overall.

        Gregan had a couple of big moments (that tackle, that quote) but also hung around in a bunch of teams that got regularly spanked in the last 4-5 years of his career.

        Scott-Young wasn’t around for anything long enough to qualify. He did have a winning record (though you’re wrong about him not losing a test – 3-1 in Bledisloe Cup matches).

        • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:08am
          jameswm said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          Yeah I’d read that somewhere Jerry – found it hard to believe. Still, a 75% winning rate for an Aussie against the ABs is pretty handy.

          I’ll never forget that game when Eales kicked the winning penalty. He opted for the shot at goal thinking someone else would take it, found out they were off the field, then turned around and calmly slotted it himself.

          I also remember Blackadder’s captaincy that game, for the last few minutes – the ABs had the game, but Todd was panicking. You don’t often see that from an AB skipper. They were really scared that the Aussies would pull it out of the bag.

          • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:13am
            Jerry said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            Oh yeah, it’s impressive but it’s such a small sample size that it’s not indicative of that much – he came in when Aus was on the rise and didn’t hang around long. I think Heinrich Broussow is 4-0 against the AB’s, but again it’s a very small sample – he played in all the 09 tests and then the match against the B team in SA last year. It’s impressive but not even close to being in the same league as a guy like Eales who managed a winning record over a decade of Bledisloe Cup tests.

          • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:25am
            WQ said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:25am | ! Report

            The biggest gripe Blackadder had in the last few mins was the time keeping by Jonathon Kaplan.
            The ball went into touch off the Australians 4 mins into extra time and Kaplan called that the the line out would take place with NZ to throw in the ball. Blackadder asked if time was up and Kaplan said after the line out. Blackadder said no thanks we want the game finished now but was then told by Kaplan that they must play out the line out. Of course Australia stole the line out and the rest is history. However if you want to know why Blackadder was a little stressed that is why.

            • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:46am
              PeterK said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:46am | ! Report

              Arrogant coach has no right to tell the ref that game should be finished now.

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 4:53pm
                WQ said | May 3rd 2012 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

                Ah how right you are PeterK if he had been the coach, accept he was the Captain and playing in the game!

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 5:41pm
                PeterK said | May 3rd 2012 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

                sorry my mistake a typo, I meant captain, the sentiment is the same , a captain cannot tell the ref time is up, totally arrogant.

              • May 3rd 2012 @ 6:42pm
                WQ said | May 3rd 2012 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

                Easy to make a typo PeterK if you type anything like me.
                Blackadder was well within his rights to be moaning about the end of the game, as this was not the first time he had asked and when AUS accidentally put the ball in to touch 4 mins into extra time the game should have been over.
                For the Referee to say the game is over after the re-start makes no sense at all. However all the AB’s had to do was win their own line out, kick the ball out again and John Eales would never had the chance to kick that goal. Unfortunately they did not, AUS stole the line out and the rest is history as they say.
                This does explain Blackadders perceived “pannicking” as quoted by jameswm

              • May 4th 2012 @ 10:07am
                jameswm said | May 4th 2012 @ 10:07am | ! Report

                It was only 4 mins into extra time because the match clock wasn’t stopped for breaks in play. In fact, there was say 20 odd seconds left and kaplan was dead right.

                The fault was with ths stadium clock not giving the correct picture, not the ref.

              • May 4th 2012 @ 10:15am
                Justin said | May 4th 2012 @ 10:15am | ! Report

                Ref is sole judge of time. If there is 20secs left to play then you play. Its pretty simple…

              • May 4th 2012 @ 10:49am
                WQ said | May 4th 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

                No there was not 20 odd seconds left and Kaplan had stopped his watch just after the ball had gone into touch. That is why Blackadder was moaning, his point was leave the clock running and there will not be enough time for the line out anyway.

        • May 4th 2012 @ 8:04am
          Riccardo said | May 4th 2012 @ 8:04am | ! Report

          Has to be the great John Eales.

          That kick still burns.

          Eales himself said of Richie: “an outstanding captain, a world class player and a role model for our sport”.

          • May 4th 2012 @ 9:47am
            WQ said | May 4th 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

            Your right Riccardo it was the great John Eales, also one of the best Players and Leaders to ever play the game.

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:39am
        sheek said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:39am | ! Report


        Sam Scott-Young played a ridiculously few 7 tests. I do think there was a personality clash with Bob Dwyer, who was national coach at the time. Scott-Young played just 4 tests against the ABs for 3 wins.

        1990 – 3rd test in Auckland, won 21-9 by Wallabies

        1992 – 1st test in Sydney, won 16-15 by Wallabies

        1992 – 2nd test in Brisbane, won 19-17 by Wallabies

        1992 – 3rd test in Sydney, won 26-23 by All Blacks

        • May 3rd 2012 @ 8:14pm
          Snobby Deans said | May 3rd 2012 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

          The reality is, if a team is successful over a short period, a player might have a fantastic record against the All Blacks. Maybe there were some Boks who played against the All Blacks ion ’09 who played in all 3 wins.

          The article about McCaw talks more about the success over a longer period. Why not focus on which players have enjoyed success over the longer period?

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 8:11pm
        Snobby Deans said | May 3rd 2012 @ 8:11pm | ! Report

        So in an article about McCaw, your first thought was to talk about which Wallaby has tormented the All Blacks the most?

        Geez, didn’t realise I’d misread the article that much . . .

        • May 4th 2012 @ 10:09am
          jameswm said | May 4th 2012 @ 10:09am | ! Report

          That’s what I’m more interested in;)

    • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:42am
      Jerry said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      McCaw’s been playing since 2001, though only against Aus since 2002.

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:49am
        Jerry said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        So he has in fact, played in a ‘losing’ (actually drawn with Aus retaining) Bledisloe series.

        • May 3rd 2012 @ 5:16pm
          Frank O'Keeffe said | May 3rd 2012 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

          I forgot about that… although yeah he didn’t lose that series, anymore than he lost the 2007 series which was 1-1, or the 2004 series.

    • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:45am
      Atawhai Drive said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      Difficult to compare loose forwards from the rucking and post-rucking eras.

      Referees still shriek “It’s a ruck” but actually it’s something quite different, and has been since the late 1990s.

      McCaw is a great player of his era, Michael Jones was a great player of his time.

      Like Justin above, I can’t help wondering how McCaw might have fared at the bottom of rucks when the boots were flying. But great players can adapt to any circumstances.

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:54am
        Justin said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        I have no doubt he would adapt and the law would have made little difference to his output but geez he would have been a sore boy…

        • May 3rd 2012 @ 6:03pm
          Wal the Hooker said | May 3rd 2012 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

          I agree he’d be sore Justin but a champion is a champion, my money would be on him getting right back into it! Some people on here just can’t take their blinkers off, McCaw’s desire to win is unrelenting and what makes him such a massive competitor. Love him or loathe him. He’s a winner

      • May 4th 2012 @ 10:58am
        WQ said | May 4th 2012 @ 10:58am | ! Report

        I don’t think it would have made one ounce of difference.
        The reason I say this is that the average player is much bigger now, they are much fitter and the collisions and speed of the game has greatly increased. The physicality of the Test matches today in terms of physical contact is much greater.
        Michael Jones was a superior athlete to 90% of the players around him as he was in front of his time re fitness. A great degree of his success came from this advantage he quite simply had a better motor. The real question to be asked is would Michael Jones have been as successful as he was if he played today amongst a whole heap of players that are just as fit or fitter?

      • May 9th 2012 @ 4:32pm
        Ralph said | May 9th 2012 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

        Ah yes, Michael Jones. What a player he was simply sensational and redefined his role in the game.

    • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:46am
      Bobby_JJV said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:46am | ! Report

    • May 3rd 2012 @ 10:56am
      Jerry said | May 3rd 2012 @ 10:56am | ! Report

      And I’m probably biased, but I’m just gonna say it anyway – McCaw’s not just one of the 5 greatest All Blacks ever, he’s one of the 5 greatest players ever.

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:03am
        Cliff said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        As a Wallabies fan I have a different bias – but I agree.

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 5:19pm
        WQ said | May 3rd 2012 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

        How right you are Jerry

      • May 4th 2012 @ 12:41am
        bluerose said | May 4th 2012 @ 12:41am | ! Report

        Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Michael Jones, Colin Meads and Mark Ella?

      • May 4th 2012 @ 5:28am
        mania said | May 4th 2012 @ 5:28am | ! Report

        tots agree jerry. mccaw has suplanted cullen as the greatest player of my era. i’d also go out on a limb and say not only was he the greatest player in the world but the greatest in rugby history. mccaw would be able to play in any era and dominate. thats a sign of a truly great. like cullen, meads, michaelJones, BrianWilliams. these players in any era would’ve dominated.
        most hated aus player would have to be (with the utmost respect but no particular order) Eales, Gregan, markElla, nickFarrJones, Lynagh, georgeSmith, larkham, campese

      • May 4th 2012 @ 7:07am
        Riccardo said | May 4th 2012 @ 7:07am | ! Report

        Absolutely Jerry…

      • May 5th 2012 @ 10:23am
        Barbara said | May 5th 2012 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        I agree with you and he is also a very humble person and great to meet

    • May 3rd 2012 @ 11:02am
      CraigB said | May 3rd 2012 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      What needs to be noted is that its easy to be a tormentor when the rules don’t or aren’t apllied to what you do.

      • May 4th 2012 @ 11:16am
        Thurl said | May 4th 2012 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        If someone is allowed to get away with the same things for 10 years, then obviously he’s not breaking any rules… šŸ˜‰

        • May 4th 2012 @ 11:47am
          Riccardo said | May 4th 2012 @ 11:47am | ! Report

          McDonalds Thurl, as in I’m loving it!

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