Record-breaking New Zealand captain Richie McCaw paid tribute to the “absolute champions” alongside him after his likely farewell appearance on home soil.
The All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup with a thumping 41-13 win over Australia at Eden Park on Saturday in McCaw’s 142nd Test – taking him beyond Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll as the most capped player of all time.
They now head to a World Cup in England and Wales which is set to be the last hurrah for McCaw and the likes of Ma’a Nonu – who signed off with a rampaging two-try display, Dan Carter and Conrad Smith.
Smith was also on the scoresheet while Carter kicked 16 points and McCaw said at a post-match presentation screened on Sky Sports 3: “They’re absolute champions.
“The jersey means a whole lot but the people that fill it up are the ones that put all that effort and energy in.
“I’ve been so lucky, and I think those guys will agree, to have each other side by side over so many years to go through the tough times and the good times.
“Those men have all given a huge amount and our success has come from their attitude and their talent.
“There’s going to be a big hole left but, as always, people will fill it. For the moment I think we can say to those men who’ve done their country proud, they’re absolutely awesome.”
McCaw made his debut in 2001 and has captained his country at three World Cups, finally lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011.
He has also been named IRB international player of the year on three occasions – 2006, 2009 and 2010 – but remained humble as he was honoured in front of a crowd of 48,457.
“The first day I pulled on this jersey, I didn’t want to let it down – I wanted to add to the legacy and still tonight that was the goal,” he said.
“Tonight, to play in front of a home crowd at Eden Park, it’s just a wonderful place to play and I just feel so proud to have been able to do it and to keep on doing it, because I absolutely love it.”
Coach Steve Hansen said of McCaw: “He’s just an ordinary bloke but he’s a champion. He’s probably been our greatest All Black of the modern time – if not ever, and we’ve had some great, great All Blacks.”
Australia captain Stephen Moore added: “Full credit to Richie and his team. He’s been a great opponent for us for a long time now and he deserved everything he got.”
Huge congrats to Richie McCaw in becoming the most capped Test player of all time. No one could be more deserving. #142
— Brian O’Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) August 15, 2015
The Wallabies had won 29-17 in Sydney last week but had no answer in Auckland to Carter’s craft and Nonu’s power running.
McCaw said: “The Bledisloe means a hell of a lot – it’s always a hell of a Test match.
“Last week we were on the receiving end but it’s amazing how it can change. The physicality and the way we’ve been this week shows what it means between both teams.
“We wish you ( Australia ) all best for the World Cup, and we’ll no doubt see you over there.”
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