New Zealand Rugby
Richie McCaw returns to rugby
July 13, 2013
Christchurch's Richie McCaw runs the ball, Christchurch v University, Christchurch club rugby, Christchurch Park, Christchurch, July 13, 2013
Richie McCaw felt "heavy legs" in the final quarter against University © Getty Images

Richie McCaw ended a seven-month break from rugby in a humble amateur match at Christchurch Park on Saturday before declaring himself ready to return to the professional fray with the Crusaders Super Rugby team.

The fixture between Christchurch and University would normally have attracted a few hundred hardy spectators but thousands of fans thronged as word spread that one of New Zealand's highest-paid professional sportsmen would take part.

McCaw, a 116-Test veteran and three-time world player of the year, has been on a sabbatical since the All Blacks lost to England 38-21 at Twickenham last December. He returned to play on a muddy suburban paddock in the main South Island city of Christchurch, where his Christchurch club side beat University 22-5.

McCaw said after playing the full 80 minutes that he felt ready to rejoin the Crusaders in the Super Rugby play-offs next week ahead of the Rugby Championship that New Zealand kick-off against Australia in a pair of Bledisloe Cup Tests in Sydney and Wellington in August.

"It would be nice to be involved with the Crusaders, but that's a discussion I have to have," McCaw said. "If that turns out to be the case, playing next week, I don't see that being a problem. I'm sure it will be fine."

McCaw looked rusty at first, dropping the ball the first time it went his way, and he confessed that he had "heavy legs" for the last quarter of the game. But he produced a solid performance that impressed Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder on the sidelines. Blackadder was non-committal when asked if he would rush McCaw back into the side for the opening round of the Super Rugby finals, saying only that he would make a decision early in the coming week.

Richie McCaw returned to a hero's reception at Christchurch Park © Getty Images

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