14 Apr 2016

McCaw appointed to Order of NZ

5:39 pm on 14 April 2016

Richie McCaw officially joined an elite group of New Zealanders after accepting his appointment to the Order of New Zealand - the highest honour in the system.

Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw Photo: RNZ / Max Towle

The former All Black captain who led his team to victory at two consecutive world cups shot a cheeky smile to his family and fiancé before today's formal ceremony at Government House.

He said on days like this, he was glad to have them flanking him.

"Things like this... when you play sport you only think about what you're going to do, but times like this you can see that they're proud of what you've been able to achieve and you are representing them too," he said.

Only 19 New Zealanders are members of the Order of New Zealand, and there is a maximum of only 20 members at one time.

Sir Edmund Hillary was a member while Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Jim Bolger, Helen Clark and Sir Murray Halberg are current members - and now Mr McCaw is the youngest by 31 years.

Richie McCaw and Governor General, Sir Jerry Mateparae.

Richie McCaw and Governor General, Sir Jerry Mateparae. Photo: POOL / Monique Ford - Fairfax Media

The former All Black captain's sister and fiance Gemma Flynn at the ceremony.

The former All Black captain's sister and fiance Gemma Flynn at the ceremony. Photo: RNZ / Max Towle

While he was honoured with the award, he said he was not comfortable with being a knight.

"The fact that this is the highest honour there is is pretty special in itself."

Mr McCaw informally turned down a knighthood after the All Blacks won the World Cup in 2011, saying he wanted to wait until he stopped playing.

"As a young man you still want to integrate yourself with your mates as normal and not having a title like that makes it easier."

Richie McCaw's father watches as his son receives New Zealand's highest honour.

Richie McCaw's father watches as his son receives New Zealand's highest honour. Photo: RNZ / Max Towle

His achievements were almost endless. He is the most capped test rugby player of all time, has been awarded the IRB Player of the Year a record three times, and led the All Blacks to World Cup glory twice.

"When you play rugby or represent your country you don't expect to have something like this bestowed on you," he said.

"I guess you receive it on behalf of people who you've represented and it's recognition of the hard work you put in trying to represent your country the best you can, which I've tried to do for awhile."

Mr McCaw said Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, told him the honour was as much for his accomplishments on the field as it was for how he handled himself off it.

Once he puts the suit away and hangs his newest medal up, he would return to flying helicopters down south.

Watch the full ceremony here

Rugby referee Colin Hawke, political journalist John Armstrong, and Archbishop William Brown Turei were also honoured today.