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Unstoppable McCaw closing in on invincible year

The magnificent seven is getting ready to ride off into the sunset.

"I hope he packs a bag up with bugger all in it and disappears – goes somewhere where no one knows anything about rugby and he gets left alone," Steve Hansen said of his captain fantastic, after Richie McCaw (right) had inspired the All Blacks to a 20th successive match without defeat. Unfortunately for England, New Zealand's openside flanker has one final mission to accomplish before he drops off the radar. The home XV at Twickenham on Saturday will stand between the All Black totem and a calendar year of invincibility.

"Oh, it will be a big challenge," McCaw said, turning his attention from what proved to be a routine success in Cardiff to the final leg of his team's end-of-year European tour. "England lost against South Africa so they'll be pretty keen to turn that round. Mentally, we've got to be on the job so we can go and put in a performance, because that's what's needed."

No player in world rugby is better in the back-to-back performance department than the man who guided New Zealand to victory in the World Cup a year ago while operating virtually on one leg. McCaw was at his magnificent best here, unstoppable at the breakdown, as New Zealand – shorn of Dan Carter – racked up 33 unanswered points in 58 minutes (courtesy of tries from forwards Liam Messam, Tony Woodcock and Luke Romano and 18 points from the boot of Aaron Cruden) before an injury-ravaged Welsh team salvaged pride with a party piece of a score from a 15-man line-out drive, claimed by centre Scott Williams, and a late try by Alex Cuthbert. It was McCaw's 102nd win in 115 Tests as an All Black. "Next week will be my last game until the middle of next year," he said. "Physically, I don't think it's a problem. It's just to refresh a little bit. I've been on the treadmill, I suppose, for a while now."

The chances are that the 2012 All Blacks will be missing one of their front-rowers when they roll up at Twickenham. Hooker Andrew Hore escaped punishment for the short-arm punch that concussed Bradley Davies in the opening minute but can expect a suspension. As for Wales, they have considerable patching up to do after losing Davies, prop Aaron Jarvis (knee) and centre Jamie Roberts (hip). (© Independent News Service)

Wales – L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts (S Williams 19), L Williams; R Priestland (J Hook 68), M Phillips (T Knoyle 55); P James (G Jenkins 55), M Rees, A Jarvis (S Andrews 2), B Davies (A Shingler 2), L Charteris, R Jones (J Tipuric 50), S Warburton, T Faletau .

New Zealand – I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea (B Smith 76); A Cruden, A Smith (P Weepu 50); T Woodcock (W Crockett 50), A Hore (D Coles 55), O Franks (C Faumuina 61), L Romano (B Retallick 56), S Whitelock, L Messam (V Vito 70), R McCaw, K Read.

Ref – C Joubert (South Africa).

Irish Independent