James Mortimer 18.Aug.2013Getty Images
Debate surrounding such breaks has been curious, especially in the instance of Richie McCaw.
Not only did he crack the 100-Test barrier and play through rugby’s biggest competition on one foot in 2011, but suited up for the maiden year of the All Blacks championship reign, to ensure that New Zealand broke recent trend and suffered no ‘World Cup’ hangover.
With 116-Tests banked, the conversation regarding McCaw stepping away for six months would have fascinated.
He clearly didn’t want to retire, and the blip against England aside, had proven he and his team were still the best in the business.
If he didn’t rest however, the double Test and Super Rugby centurion could have potentially broken down, and that would have impeded perhaps McCaw’s final major goal as a rugby player – to become the first captain to ever successfully defend a World Championship.
The chance to give an extended break and freshen up a man who challenges Colin Meads as our greatest was in the end an easy decision, even if last week proved that you can take nothing for granted, as questions regarding his ability to play at the highest table after such a layoff raised in tempo.
At the conclusion of his first Test match since Twickenham, there were three sights notable as McCaw walked towards the post-match interview.
First, he walked.
There was no hint of the classic gait that McCaw often treads after a Test, that measured step of a man who knows he has just emptied his mortal tank.
There was energy behind his walk that belied his first international match back, backed by a freshness of speech – far from the breathless warrior we have heard in the past who has left all of his being on the rugby pitch.
But third, and most importantly, there was a grin, the childish smirk of someone who has just been reunited with their favourite toy.
Of someone who doesn’t reflect that a match was tough, as much as thinking ‘damn I enjoyed that!”
McCaw is back, and it is clear the fire of desire has been well stoked, something that has been noted by the likes of Dan Carter and Conrad Smith, and suddenly extending the careers of our greats seems a very natural thing to do.