Another day at office for McCaw

Others will talk about the phenomenal achievement that Richie McCaw will rack up when he runs out at Eden Park, but not the All Blacks skipper himself.

McCaw will play his 142nd Test when he leads a New Zealand side desperate to keep hold of the Bledisloe Cup by exacting revenge on the Wallabies on Saturday night.

The figure will put him alone at the top of the list of Test rugby’s most capped players, edging ahead of Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll.

But coach Steve Hansen says it’s not something that has been a topic of discussion within the All Blacks this week.

“The ironic thing is that it hasn’t been spoken about in the group,” he said.

“That’s the way he likes it and that’s the way we like it – he putting’s the team first.

“It’s another day at the office where he has to play well and that’s how he’s looking at it.”

But Hansen was unstinting in his praise of his captain, describing him as “probably the greatest player to have played the game in the modern era”.

He marvelled at the 34-year-old’s longevity, particularly in the high-collision position of openside flanker.

Then there was the consistency of performance over a 14-year Test career.

“Not too many guys get through their career without getting badly injured – there’s a high work rate involved in playing at openside flanker,” Hansen said.

“The thing I marvel at about Rico is the quality of performance week-in week-out is always well into the 90s [per cent].”

McCaw made his Test debut in a 40-29 win over Ireland in Dublin in November 2001.

He was 20 and had played just 17 matches for Canterbury.

“He came out of the blue,” Hansen recalled.

McCaw’s first captaincy experience followed three years later in a 26-25 win over Wales in Cardiff.

He has gone on to skipper New Zealand 105 times, in 2011 lifting the World Cup after having played through the tournament with a busted foot.

Although McCaw hasn’t made an announcement, he is widely expected to retire after the All Blacks’ defence of the Webb Ellis Cup this year, which means the upcoming Test is set to be his last on home soil.

Fellow All Black Victor Vito knows about the rigours involved with operating in the loose forwards, but he’s not surprised at McCaw’s endurance.

“For me, if anything, he’s getting better and better with age,” Vito said.

“It would be pretty unbelievable if it was anyone else, but I know the drive that he has.”

The 27-19 loss to the Wallabies in Sydney last weekend, which has put New Zealand’s tenure of the Bledisloe Cup in jeopardy, was just the 15th time McCaw had experienced a Test defeat.

Fullback Ben Smith said the All Blacks wanted McCaw’s world-record night to be one to remember for the right reasons.

“He’s a great captain and it’s a great achievement,” he said.

“The players will try to do everything we can as far as putting a good performance out on the field for our skipper.”

RICHIE McCAW’S TEST CAREER

Debut: v Ireland in Dublin, November 17, 2001, aged 20

Tests: 141 (135 as starter)

Tests as All Blacks captain: 105

Test points: 135 (27 tries)

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