The IRB has named All Black captain Richie McCaw as its Player of the Year this morning. It is the third time that McCaw has been honoured with this accolade. The Herald reports:
McCaw faced stiff competition for the player of the year award with teammate Mils Muliaina, South African lock Victor Matfield, No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, of France, and rising young Australia stars David Pocock and Kurtley Beale all performing well during the year, but McCaw consistently impressed the IRB's awards panel with some outstanding performances.
"Rugby is fortunate to have a player and person of the calibre of Richie McCaw," said awards panel convenor John Eales, the former Wallabies captain.
"He is an outstanding captain, a world class player and a role model for our sport. In winning the award three times, Richie has truly cemented his place right up there amongst some of the greats."
We concur; we certainly wouldn't argue with John "Nobody" Eales (Why "Nobody"? Because nobody's perfect!). We have watched a heck of a lot of rugby over the years, and we don't reckon that it would be a stretch to say that McCaw is the best player we have ever seen. He is a fantatstic athlete, has a terrific rugby brain, and has become an outstanding captain and leader. We had reservations over McCaw's ability to captain the All Blacks early in that phase of his career, but those have long since vanished.
McCaw's captaincy was especially evident in the weekend's win over Wales. When the Welsh closed to within one point, and when Daniel Braid was sin-binned, McCaw's leadership was inspirational. There was no panic; merely a tactical dominance by the All Blacks in that 10-minute spell, and the match was made safe.
So much of the All Blacks' prospects in next year's Rugby World Cup depends on McCaw, and on Daniel Carter. Richie McCaw, All Black captain (2010 edition) is vastly superior to the 2007 version. We doubt that Richie McCaw (2010) would allow the errors which cost the All Blacks in that fateful match in Cardiff in 2007 to happen. And under his captaincy, the All Blacks have again started to win the close matches, Hong Kong apart.
This will quite possibly be our final comment on rugby for 2010. After a necessary recharge of our batteries, we will be keenly awaiting the 2011 season, and all that it promises.