IT WAS NEVER likely that Richie McCaw was going to put the feet up when he retired from rugby.
He completed his ‘commercial fixed wing’ pilot’s licence in February as he took a step closer to being qualified to fly helicopters for Christchurch Helicopters, in which he has a shareholding.
Yesterday, he was in Dublin representing AIG, while he works as a ‘brand ambassador’ for several other global firms as he cleverly and deservedly cashes in on the fact that his name is recognisable worldwide.
Physically, he has not allowed himself to stew either.
Though the Richie McCaw who plants himself into a seat in AIG’s Dublin offices appears considerably lighter than the 108kg openside flanker who captained New Zealand to two World Cups, he has not entertained the idea of laziness.
Immediately after World Cup success in England last year, the 35-year-old launched himself into the demanding training required to complete the 530km, 5-day challenge that is GODZone.
Raising funds for the Cure Kids charity, McCaw was part of a four-person team that took on the mountain biking, trekking, climbing, rafting and kayaking endurance race. Earlier this month, McCaw and his team came home 20th out of 61 teams in the Tasman Region.
“I had to end up training 15 hours a week,” says McCaw, “two hours a day at least and we had to do some big days as well just to get myself into shape to do it, make sure I finished.
“It was quite different, rugby is a short thing. On a rugby field you know you have a bit of experience, you know what it is all about. I didn’t know how I was going to go. When you’re into a 30-hour trek and you haven’t slept for 24 hours, what are you going to do?
“People talk about all these things, you start hallucinating. We experienced a bit of that. That was the thing that intrigued me, how I was going to handle it.”
It comes as no surprise that McCaw actively looked forward to the effects of sleep deprivation to see how he would react. The Kurow native always relished being tested under pressure in his playing career and that won’t change post-rugby.
McCaw had the opportunity to play on into this season. New Zealand Rugby would have handed him a new deal, while a number of wealthy French clubs were circling, hoping to bring the flanker over to the Top 14 for a final payday.
The Kiwi smiles as he says that he never allowed the French interest to develop into a concrete offer, as he didn’t want to be tempted.
He has no immediate plans to venture into coaching either, though he say he would possibly like to contribute something to the game in that way in the future.
“I just wanted to take a complete break from rugby at the moment,” says McCaw. “Going into coaching would frustrate me I think.
“I’d really like to coach teenage kids, because I reckon at that age you can influence pretty awesomely and that’s the type of coaching I’d like to get into. I don’t think I’d like being a professional coach, because it wouldn’t quite substitute for playing.
“I’ve spoken to some coaches who went in there because it’s sort of what they knew. They said, ‘You think you’re a player but you’re not.’ It’s tough, so that’s probably not me.
“Just because you do well on the field doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good coach. You’ve seen examples of that, and vice versa. When you’re a player, you can help people. When you can go out there and do it yourself, it’s a damn sight easier than having to say, ‘You go and do it now.’”
McCaw says he hasn’t missed playing Super Rugby in recent months, mainly due to the busy demands of his new life. He has “no doubt” that when he watches the All Blacks run out against Wales in June, however, that those slights pangs of regret will kick in.
The 35-year-old is content that he had a “pretty good innings” in the game, and looking at his record of two Worlds Cups winner’s medals, 148 caps, 10 Tri Nations/Rugby Championship titles, four Super Rugby triumphs, and three IRB Player of the Year awards, among other achievements, it’s easy to see why.
Now his involvement in rugby will be limited to watching the sport. While the Test series against the Welsh is next on the agenda for the All Blacks, Ireland await Steve Hansen’s men twice in November, first in Chicago and then in Dublin.
McCaw says himself and the Kiwi rugby community have been keeping an eye on compatriot Joe Schmidt’s achievements throughout his time in Ireland.
“Joe, with his record and the teams he’s been involved with has been pretty successful and I know the guys who have experienced his coaching before he came over here always talked pretty highly of him,” says McCaw.
“We nearly suffered from that in 2013 so it doesn’t go unnoticed absolutely and I think down the track a guy like that could come back and coach in New Zealand, maybe the All Blacks one day. He’s the type of guy who’d be great, the experience he has is pretty awesome really.”
McCaw’s mention of that famous Kiwi win in Dublin in 2013 is timely given that Ireland will need to jump the hurdle they were grounded by on that occasion. They have two shots at glory this time around, and will hope not to be haunted by that day in Dublin.
“I guess from our point of view I knew it was going to swing at some point,” says McCaw of the Kiwis’ remarkable comeback. “It just took a little bit longer than we thought. Then you get to a point in the second-half where I think the Irish boys, I dunno, there was a bit of a wrestle where no one had control.
“I can’t speak for them but I sort knew from our or point of view we were starting to chip away. Now from a mental point of view, I don’t know from their point of view, but the one moment when Johnny Sexton lined up that goal it would have sealed it.
“But the fact that it didn’t opened the door for us and you could see our guys, we had been offered the opportunity. But that’s that moment in sport. If he had been offered that again he would probably have got that goal. If we had that moment again maybe we wouldn’t have scored the [Ryan Crotty] try. That’s what intrigues you.
“But look I don’t know, at the end of the game I felt like we didn’t deserve to win, that’s what I loved about the team I was involved in. Found a way to – yet didn’t deserve to.”
Ireland must finally find a way later this year.
“The reality is the gap across the top half a dozen teams in the world, there ain’t much between them,” says McCaw of Ireland’s chances of beating the All Blacks.
“On any given day you could say who should win and who shouldn’t, but you have only got to be off by a little bit and that day I know the Irish were right on top of their game and didn’t allow us to be and it could have gone the other way.
“That’s a reason to look forward to these games. [Ireland] could take a leaf out of that, ‘Yeah, it is all possible,’ but if you start thinking ‘Ah, here we go again,’ that can be a barrier as well.”
Richie McCaw was in Dublin to help promote AIG Insurance’s Telematics car insurance. The product, aimed at 21-34 year olds, is designed to encourage and reward safe driving in Ireland by offering up to a 30% discount to those who display high standards of driving. For more information log on to www.aig.ie or call 1890 27 27 27.
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