Thursday, 18 November 2010

By my reckoning Richie McCaw will play his 100th test match for the All Blacks against Japan in Hamilton in the second pool game of the Rugby World Cup.

That’s assuming he’s injury-free and takes the field against Ireland and Wales, plays in all four of next year’s Tri Nations games against Australia and South Africa and starts in the World Cup opener against Tonga.

The moot point will be whether he shares the honour with Mils Muliaina who also plays a record 93rd test, against Ireland on Sunday morning.

Without wanting to think ill of the former Southlander, I hope the three wise men give Muliaina a spell at some stage in the next seven internationals and bestow upon McCaw, alone, the honour of being the first All Black to play 100 tests.

Muliaina has been a very good All Black over the past eight seasons but the tag of true greatness eludes him. George Nepia, Bob Scott, Don Clarke and Christian Cullen were great fullbacks. Muliaina is very good.

No one, however, can deny the greatness of McCaw and - strike me down for this blasphemous utterance - if he leads the All Blacks to World Cup glory in his own back yard, he will eclipse Sir Colin Meads as our greatest All Black. Not to mention get a knighthood to boot.

McCaw will never replace Meads as the most iconic and popular All Black but even the mighty Pinetree had test matches where he didn’t dominate. The same cannot be said for McCaw, who has maintained a remarkable level of performance that has made him the most dominant player on the park in his 92 tests thus far. Only Dan Carter, at his imperious best, and Don Clarke could lay claim to being as influential.

With that in mind I decided to name my first fifteen of All Blacks greats. Some may not have been the greatest player in their position but the influence they had on the outcome of test matches in their era necessitated inclusion.

I hope this stimulates some debate around your pub, club, workplace or dining table:

1/ Colin Meads.

2/ Richie McCaw.

3/ Dan Carter.

4/ Michael Jones

5/ Don Clarke

6/ Sean Fitzpatrick

7/ Brian Lochore

8/ Wilson Whineray

9/ George Nepia

10/ Jeff Wilson

11/ Ian Kirkparick

12/ Bryan Williams

13/ Ken Gray

14/ Grant Fox

15/ Tana Umaga


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