All-Black Richie McCaw announces retirement from rugby
Richie McCaw has announced his retirement from rugby after leading New Zealand to their second successive World Cup triumph.
The 34-year-old openside flanker became the first man to lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice last month when New Zealand beat Australia 34-17 in the Twickenham final.
McCaw's retirement had been expected after the All Blacks became the first team in World Cup history to successfully defend their title, but he confirmed the news at a Wellington press conference on Thursday morning local time.
"Today, I thought about whether it was the right thing to do this. But I'm going to be hanging up my boots," he said.
"My last game was for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final two weeks ago.
"Deep down I didn't want to shut the door totally.
"Even if that door was just open a little bit. It didn't feel that final until now.
"Had the World Cup gone the way of us being beaten, I'd have wanted to make sure that went right.
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"I wanted to make it about the team and not the individuals and make sure I've made the right decision.
"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."
McCaw, who was raised on a farm near Oamaru in North Otago on New Zealand's South Island, had a stellar career as an All Black after making respective provincial and Super Rugby breakthroughs at Canterbury and the Crusaders.
He made his Test debut against Ireland in Lansdowne Road in November 2001 when he was named man-of-the-match in New Zealand's 40-29 victory.
McCaw was voted Newcomer of the Year by the International Rugby Players' Association in 2002 and was named All Blacks captain for the first time, against Wales in 2004, at the tender age of 23 when regular skipper Tana Umaga was rested.
Having helped the All Blacks to a 3-0 series win over the British and Irish Lions in 2005, McCaw was appointed New Zealand captain in May 2006 at the age of 25 and after 36 Test matches.
McCaw was named IRB International Player of the Year for the first time in 2006 and also won the award in 2009 and 2010.
His three wins is a record he shares with former All Blacks team-mate Dan Carter.
Renowned for his physical turnover work around the breakdown area, McCaw reinvented the role of the openside flanker in modern rugby as he combined brute strength and reading the game with more traditional handling dexterity and defensive skills.
Tournament favourites New Zealand were stunned when France eliminated them at the 2007 World Cup quarter-final stage, but McCaw remained as captain and helped the All Blacks end their 24-year wait for rugby's biggest prize on home soil four years later.
McCaw won his 100th cap in that tournament but decided to stay on for another four years to lead New Zealand's title defence in England.
And the All Blacks were simply irresistible as they swept all before them to lay claim to being the greatest team in rugby history.
McCaw won a record 148th cap in the final against Australia with 111 of those appearances coming as captain.
He won 131 of the Tests he played with two draws and 15 losses, and scored 27 tries.
McCaw announced his retirement the day after the death of his former team-mate and All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu at the age of 40.