20 Nov 2015

McCaw: 'I know I've got this right'

9:20 am on 20 November 2015

After 148 tests for the All Blacks, captain Richie McCaw is hanging up his boots. He told Susie Ferguson about what went through his mind when he took off his All Black jersey for the last time.

Richie McCaw made no secret of the fact he was considering retirement in the lead up to this year's Rugby World Cup, but he did not allow himself to think beyond the final whistle of his final game.

"Any time my thoughts went past it, I thought 'nah, that wasn't going to help me'," he told RNZ. "And after the final whistle went and before the trophy was handed out, I was like 'oh wow, this is probably it', but then I thought 'no, I'm going to enjoy this'.

"And there was that little moment when I took the jersey off and sat there and thought 'this is the last time I'm going to be playing in an All Black jersey', and then I thought 'what better way to finish?', and I'm going to enjoy the next week. And when I got home there was no underlying thing of maybe I haven't got this right. I know I've got this right."

The 34-year-old debuted as an All Black against Ireland in Dublin in 2001, and became the first All Black to play 100 tests a decade later.

He took over the captaincy from Tana Umaga at the start of the 2006 season and went on to lead New Zealand 111 times.

McCaw's body took a lot of battering during his rugby career, and he admitted his parents were glad to see him finish in one piece, but he said the physical side of things wasn't the main reason for retiring.

"I actually felt like physically I was in really good shape. I was close to my best on some of the physical stuff we get tested on, just right at the end.

"It was more the mental side, there were a couple of times, especially going into the World Cup and its knock-out rugby, the pressure is on to get it dead right. And that's hard work, and that's the bit I bank in the memory, because when I think I wish I was still playing, I can just remember back to what it takes to do that, and that's the bit I get tired of."

McCaw's focus is now shifting to the sky, with plans to work as a commercial helicopter pilot in Christchurch, a move he has been contemplating for some time.

"I've been obviously interested in aviation and in 2012 when I started to fly helicopters I realised it was was a pretty cool job that those guys did and I thought that would be a pretty cool thing to do."

In the course of his 14-year career there was bitter defeat, including missing out on the World Cup twice, as well as success: seven Tri-Nations-Rugby Championship titles; eight Bledisloe Cups and two Rugby World Cup victories, at home in 2011, and again in England earlier this year.

But he said he did not feel sad about the end of that long career.

"There is no doubt there is going to be a bit of a hole left but I'm also excited about what's ahead. You get to the end of a chapter and you open a new one, and I think that's how I feel. There's no doubt the boys go out and play next year, I'm going to be feeling like I wish I was out there, but I also know it's the right time to move on."

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