New Zealand rugby captain Richie McCaw, who led the All Blacks to a second consecutive World Cup victory last month, has announced his retirement from the sport.
“It’s the end of something that has been a big part of my life,” McCaw, 34, said in a televised news conference Thursday. “I’m hugely excited about closing that chapter and looking forward to the future.”
McCaw, who occupied the physically demanding openside flanker position, is widely regarded as one of the best players in rugby history and has become an iconic figure in New Zealand. He made a world-record 148 test match appearances over his 14-year international career, winning 89 percent of them, and captained the All Blacks a record 111 times.
“He’s been a terrific player, and a terrific leader and probably the greatest we’ve ever had,” said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. “To be able to go out lifting the cup for the second time you couldn’t script it better.”
The All Blacks beat Australia in the World Cup final in London on Oct. 31, retaining the trophy they won in Auckland in 2011. The team has been top of World Rugby’s rankings since November 2009.
McCaw debuted as a 20-year-old against Ireland in 2001. His 27 test tries are the third-most by a forward. He is the only captain to win back-to-back World Cups, and was World Rugby’s player of the year in 2006, 2009 and 2010.
Fellow All Black great Dan Carter, who retired from international rugby after the World Cup, is the only other player to win the award three times.
McCaw said he wasn’t attracted by the option of joining a club team in France on a lucrative contract, saying he was looking forward to not having the pressure of performing every week. He plans to become more involved with a Christchurch helicopter company, and wants to achieve a commercial pilots license.
He will continue some sponsor and charity work, and expects to contribute back to rugby at some time in the future, “but I’ve got no idea in what regard, or when.”
His retirement comes a day after the sudden death of former All Black Jonah Lomu, whose feats on the pitched help to bring rugby union to a global audience.
“He’s a legend of the game,” said McCaw. “A lot of people around the world are hurting from the loss of a great man and a great All Black.”