'Not only the greatest All Black, but greatest captain'
New Zealand's head coach Steve Hansen paid tribute to Richie McCaw after the All Blacks captain announced his retirement from rugby in Wellington yesterday.
The 34-year-old openside flanker, who won a world record 148 caps, had been expected to retire after becoming the first man to lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice and the All Blacks became the first team in World Cup history to successfully defend their title.
The announcement comes a day after Jonah Lomu's death and there was a minute's silence for the former New Zealand wing at the start of McCaw's press conference.
McCaw said: "I thought about whether it was the right thing to do this. But I'm going to be hanging up my boots. I sit here with no regrets as a rugby player. That last game as a rugby player was pretty satisfying.
"I'm hugely excited about the future. A couple of things I have in mind. I learnt to fly helicopters in 2009 and that's going to be my thing from now. It's something I'm passionate about."
Hansen said: "On behalf of the All Blacks, we want to congratulate Richie on everything he has achieved in his career. All this success couldn't have happened to a better bloke and we wish him all the very best for the future.
"In my opinion, he will go down not only as the greatest All Black of all time, but the greatest captain we have ever had and possibly the greatest player to have ever played the game in the modern era.
"His ability as a leader will be something he will be remembered for."
McCaw played against Ireland 14 times during his international career and these are some of his stand-out moments against the men in green.
McCaw announces himself
Ireland 29 New Zealand 40
Lansdowne Road, November 17, 2001
Few debutants win man of the match awards, but McCaw marked himself out as different in this clash. Ireland were battle-hardened after the Six Nations games had been rescheduled due to the Foot and Mouth crisis and ran up a 21-7 lead, only to be pegged back by the Jonah Lomu-led All Blacks. Amid all the superstars, however, it was the young openside who stood out.
Heaslip sees red
New Zealand 66 Ireland 28
New Plymouth, June 12, 2010
McCaw's ability to enter rucks from a variety of illegal positions deceived referees and infuriated opponents. During Ireland's tour in 2010, Jamie Heaslip's temper got the better of him as the All Black captain contorted himself across the Ireland ball under his own posts and lashed out twice with his knee. Heaslip walked, McCaw played on and New Zealand scored nine tries.
Hamilton horror show
New Zealand 60 Ireland 0
Hamilton, June 23, 2012
A week after one of Ireland's closest calls against New Zealand, the two teams met in Hamilton for the final game of a three-test series and McCaw lined up at No8 for the first-time. His side inflicted a big beating on Ireland, a record deficit and the captain played his part in the punishing win.
Completing the perfect season
Ireland 22 New Zealand 24
Aviva Stadium, November 24, 2013
In the first half, Cian Healy steamrolled McCaw as Ireland raced into the lead but the captain rallied his team at as they clawed back the lead and made history by completing the season with a 100pc record thanks to Ryan Crotty's late try and Aaron Cruden's conversion.