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17 August 2015
Offering Knighthoods and talk of him becoming our Prime Minister are just not fair on Richie McCaw. Back off Kiwis! And give our All Black captain room to be just that!
First things first; congratulations must go to Richie McCaw for his fantastic achievement of leading the All Blacks so superbly over his long rugby career, and especially, I feel, over the last 5 or 6 seasons. He has grown into his greatness (I see where he actually now says that himself, being a better captain now than he was in, say, 2007.)
It is my belief that McCaw's current status of playing a World Record 142 tests might not ever be passed by anyone from any country, unless it is by a hooker or halfback who get regularly subbed on and off the field and who therefore do not ever have to always play through the full 80 minute rugby torture barrier.
I suppose McCaw has been hurt in some games but I can't remember them. This we all know though; he was never subbed of before the battle had been clearly decided in favour of his All Blacks.
That he now looks like an slightly aging prize fighter, with his previous good looks now somewhat bloodied and battered. His swollen nose has some nicks and cuts. Plus some over-hanging veranda eyebrows have become testament to all those games where he was there on the field, toughing it out from go to whoa and never considering going off for an early shower.
But get this, I just don't get all this sycophancy that now surrounds our captain. And I bet you he is not impressed with it much, either.
Starting with our Prime Minister John Key who continues to behave all gee-whizz and golly-gosh when it comes to talking about McCaw. On both of New Zealand's Monday morning's shows (TV1's Breakfast and The Paul Henry Show on TV3) there was the PM, 48 hours after the 41-13 win over Australia and no doubt delighted that his questioners were not pushing too hard on affairs of state - happy to go along with any suggestions that McCaw might be offered a Knighthood 'again' or hearing again that perenial question 'is he the greatest All Black of all time.'
Frankly, it is my belief that Mr Key would have no idea of where McCaw stands in the pantheon of New Zealand's rugby story. The utterances I have read and heard from him about rugby have been hardly profound and are usually more fulsome the closer it is to the next election. The silliness continued on TV when it was suggested (seriously I have to suppose by Paul Henry) that McCaw would make an excellent Prime Minister.
McCaw from my observation is much more intelligent than that. Graham Henry, on the same morning programme, made a far better suggestion when he told Mr Henry that studying at, say, Oxford University, would be a far better option for our captain once he finishes his playing days.
(A sidebar story; There was once a rumour which raced around New Zealand that the great All Black captain of the 1960s Wilson Whineray was considering a run for Parliament. In a conversation with Wilson one time I decided to ask him outright. 'Would you like to be Prime Minister?' I said. Whineray's reply has stuck with me, 'Keith,' he came back, 'I thought you were a friend of mine!')
But back to McCaw. It's my view that the passion of an All Black victory over a badly-selected Wallaby team at Eden Park, coming so soon after a loss to a far-better selected Australian team a week earlier, is hardly the best time to judge McCaw's absolute greatness. When I came on TV1 a minute or two after the PM (today in New Zealand) and suggested McCaw's true status ought only to be debated once his time as a full test player is over, it was I thought (and modestly I hope) a far better answer.
(Can I get a job in your speech-writing or sports research department, Mr Key? Not!)
Richie McCaw to me, would rise in my estimation even more (and it is high already - don't get me wrong) if, when it is offered to him again, he declines any Knighthood talk. He does not need the bullshine that would go with the fawning; and such a label on him would not alter the place of full admiration he holds from his fellow New Zealanders, male and female, young and old.
(Not to mention any hopes he might have of winning the hand in marriage of any young Kiwi woman. 'Please marry me and automatically become Lady McCaw,' would not be fair on her to consider.)
All in all the immediate post-match chat about McCaw and his status in New Zealand's rugby and social history is, at the very least, cruelly unfair - and it is not yet necessary.
Thankfully he shows no public signs of being interested in all the accolades being heaped on him at the moment. Just continuing to be a decent Kiwi bloke has always seemed a priority for the young man from tiny Kurow.
I am sure McCaw knows that if in the tumult of a Rugby World Cup knock-out game in a few week's time and he fumbles the ball when the goal line is open ahead of him, and the scores are very close, then what is being said about him this week will very quickly fade into ancient history - and a new view will materialize with possibly vulgar words from any disappointments which will follow.
Conclusion; Of much more status to Richie ought to be the memory he can hold onto of the acclaim offered to him so warmly and big-heartedly by the 50,000 Eden Park crowd as he jogged from the park for the last time at the conclusion of his role in his 142nd test match. That thunderous acclaim was a 'thank you' on behalf of the whole country. It ought to ring in his ears forever, so generous was it for him alone. He has been a halo to our national game.
I cannot recall a cheer for a rugby hero on that famous field that was as massive; not for Colin Meads, or Bryan Williams or Jonah Lomu (though maybe Grant Elliot or Kane Williamson's cricket swipes for six to win earlier this year would have provoked an equally earthy shout of joy from a packed Eden Park?)
I loved the way this All Black team 'took out' the Wallabies so forcefully after the Sydney disaster of a week before, though in our McCaw-generated excitement we seem to have forgotten (or were not told by the always upwardly erect promotions media beforehand), that Wallaby coach Michael Cheika did some very strange things with his team selection.
For instance, why did he change the winning team from Sydney so drastically? Why did he break up his newly-found and so effective loose forward trio of Michael Hooper, David Pocock and Scott Fardy? Why also did he not have a specialist reserve halfback? And if he wanted to experiment with loose-cannon selections (sorry Quade Cooper, to New Zealanders you are one) then why not leave it till the upcoming (and easier) pre-World Cup game v USA in Chicago on September 5?
The second 'Barbed Wire' test match of 1981; and South Africa fights back.
The dramatic test at Athletic Park has SA winning 24-12. More protests in the Wellington Streets but the three-test series is set up at one-all.
The only trophy for competition between two of the Five Nation teams, the Calcutta Cup is played for between England and Scotland.
The trophy originated in India where the Calcutta Football Club, started by some former pupils of Rugby School in England, found itself facing recession after only four years of existence. Rugby was not suited for the summer-like conditions of India.
The club had only modest resources, but as a closing-down gesture, rather than spend their remaining monies on a dinner or a ball, the members withdrew their remaining rupees from the bank and had them melted down. The silver was worked by the finest of Indian workmanship and shaped into a handsome trophy with three distinctive handles shaped like cobras and an elephant mounted on its lid.
The Calcutta Cup was presented to the Rugby Football Union in London in 1878 for competition between England and Scotland. Since then (with the exception of the war years) it has been a much-prized trophy in the annual Five (and now Six) Nations match.
There is an anomaly in the recording of annual results on the base of the cup. It was first played for in 1879 yet the results of England v Scotland matches from 1871 to 1878 are etched into the plinth of the trophy, years before the trophy came into being!
The original Calcutta Cup is now seldom seen in public. Whether the annual game is held at Twickenham or at Murrayfield the original is stored, for security reasons, in a safe vault. In its histroy the Cup has often been the subject of mistreatment by the players of the day. It is often a full-size replica of the cup which is kept for display at both grounds.
(With thanks to John Mcl. Davidson – Honorary Historian Scottish Rugby Union)
From 1987 to 2011 inclusive; How many men have refereed the seven Rugby World Cup finals?
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