New Zealand Rugby
Richie McCaw celebrated by former coach
ESPN Staff
October 9, 2013
Richie McCaw's first coach John Mitchell pays tribute to McCaw's great talents © Getty Images

John Mitchell, the man who first picked ace flanker Richie McCaw for the All Blacks, before he played Super Rugby, has paid tribute to him in South Africa. Writing in a column for SA Rugby Magazine, Mitchell celebrated all that was great about the All Black flanker.

"There are many aspects of his [McCaw's] game that separate him from the rest, starting with his physical capacity. His decision-making on defence at the front and back end of the breakdown is superb," said Mitchell.

"He gets on the potential wrong side of [the] law by getting there early and keeping his feet for as long as possible. He also gets his body in the perfect position before the ruck is formed. He has evolved his breakdown work as the law interpretations have changed, and learned to put up with taking physical hits off the ball as well as the pressure put on him by opposition coaches and the media, who have suggested he cheats at the breakdown."

Mitchell also talked of McCaw's first moments in an international Test and how his game has continued to improve in his 114-Test starts, "I remember his first carry in his first Test against Ireland in Dublin in 2001, when he was 20 years old. He knocked on, and for a moment I thought we may have selected him too early in his career. But we went on to win 40-29 and McCaw was named Man of the Match.

"McCaw has also developed his lineout capability, his handling has improved, and when he carries the ball his shoulder is always ahead of the ball."

McCaw's physical strength isn't all that makes him one of the best flankers in the world, his mental strength has allowed him to dig deep and remain clam in some of the most stressful situations, "He also has mental toughness that allows him to dig deep when the momentum is against his team, and his calmness in preparation and performance is transferred to his team-match.

"McCaw knows he will be at the ball from the first phase in attack and defence, and this is something he thrives on. He loves every contest, never gets frustrated and communicates effectively during the game."

Mitchell said McCaw's professionalism had always been obvious and he had always asked the right questions. He also had balance in his life between rugby and his time away from the game.

"He is a genuinely good bloke who is very gifted in many aspects. He has maximised his talent and fulfilled his dream of not just becoming an All Black but a great All Black. The next moment defines you and nothing else matter."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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