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Rugby World Cup Final: Richie McCaw hopes to bow out feeling on top of world

By Nick Purewal

It is widely expected that Richie McCaw will retire after tomorrow's World Cup final against Australia, and yet New Zealand's decorated captain is still refusing to make an announcement.

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen continually hails McCaw as "the game's greatest-ever captain", and the 34-year-old can cement that status by retaining the Webb Ellis Cup this weekend.

In refusing to admit tomorrow's Twickenham showdown will be his 148th and final Test, and last turn in rugby, McCaw took the art of captaincy to the nth degree.

McCaw is simply so dogmatic in his captaincy that he cannot ever countenance the merest whiff of placing his personal situation ahead of the collective.

"I haven't announced anything really," said McCaw, when asked outright if the World Cup final is his last game of professional rugby.

"I've purposely not got into that because I didn't want to get all hung up on what could be.

"I have to make a decision when I get home.

"I've been told there's a spot at the Crusaders if I really want it.

"I just want to play this weekend, and the tournament before that, the best that I can.

"You still play as though you've got years ahead.

"I've made no secret that I have to reflect after this, but I just have to get this week right."

Stalwarts Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu have long since accepted the end of the World Cup as their All Blacks finish line.

McCaw explained his evasive tactics as little more than refusing to let his mind go soft, as he hones in on making history as the first captain the lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice in succession.

"That's what we're here to do," said McCaw of New Zealand's trophy quest.

"If at the end of six weeks you get that opportunity then that's what you're after. I haven't allowed myself to think even one second past the final whistle.

"That allows in thoughts that are unhelpful for the game.

"If we do our best we'll give ourselves an opportunity.

"If we get that performance right that will be something that would be pretty nice to do."

New Zealand boss Hansen hailed flanker McCaw for boasting a "trifecta" of coveted attributes.

The All Blacks head coach insists McCaw's leadership has grown ever since New Zealand crashed out of the 2007 World Cup quarter-final with a 20-18 defeat to France in Cardiff.

"He's probably the greatest player we've ever had play the game, certainly for New Zealand," said Hansen.

"In my mind leaders aren't made, they are grown.

"You're not born a leader, you learn through your experiences, and a lot of those can be negative, that you have to learn pretty sharply from.

"He copped a lot of flak in 2007, he's grown through that adversity. He is now one of the great leaders of all time, to go with being a great player. And he's a good bloke, so he's got the trifecta."

McCaw admitted wanting his New Zealand debut, against Ireland in 2001, to last forever.

Once the final is complete, the fierce competitor must then confront his Test arena mortality.

Belfast Telegraph

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