After the All Blacks’ nail-biting victory over France 8–7 at Eden Park, Auckland, on 23 October 2011, captain Richie McCaw celebrates New Zealand winning the Rugby World Cup for the second time. It was 24 years after the All Blacks’ first victory. Within a few days, a new road sign appeared on State Highway One on the southern outskirts of Ōamaru: ‘Welcome to Oamaru,’ it proclaimed. ‘Birthplace of Ritchie McCaw.’ The minor misspelling could be excused. There could have been few people in New Zealand at the time who did not know McCaw. Not only was he the national team captain, he had also played more international matches than any other New Zealander – totting up his 100th test in the World Cup pool match against France. The previous record was the 92 notched up by the 1992–97 captain Sean Fitzpatrick.
McCaw was born in Ōamaru, but is known in the rugby world as a Canterbury man. From his earliest days in Christchurch, soon after leaving school, he was tipped as a future All Black and, not long after that, tipped as a future captain. He made his debut for New Zealand in Ireland in 2001 and took over as captain in 2006, again against Ireland. When he retired after New Zealand won the 2015 Rugby World Cup, he had played a world record 148 international matches.
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