Richie McCaw recently joined the Instagram world, and in part one of an interview with his good mate, opened up about what made him a champion leader.
The now 39-year old first became All Blacks captain at the relatively young age of 25. He said his first year as skipper was fairly straight forward, but it wasn’t until the 2007 World Cup when the All Blacks got knocked out in the quarterfinal against France, that the pressure came on as leader.
“I didn’t have the answers. As a team we didn’t have them either, but when you are leading the team you have to take responsibility for what it is and that really brought me down with a thud. In some ways that’s the best thing that happened to me as a player and certainly as a captain. It forced me to face the things you aren’t very good at.
“People often say leadership can be lonely and it only is if you don’t allow other people around you to contribute. I remember coming to the realisation and I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.”
McCaw said he looked around at the senior players group that had four other Super Rugby captains and guys like Carter, who had been around as long as he had. It was a turning point for him and all of a sudden it became not such a lonely place.
“Especially when those big moments came and rather than be scared and hoping you didn’t get to those tough moments, it was actually learning about what pressure does and how to deal with it. In 2011 and 2015, having a tight group of people who drove the team was critical to the team’s success.”
The 148-Test All Black spoke about a key game in his career, the one where Ryan Crotty scored a try in the 81st minute against Ireland in 2013 to secure at 24-22 win in Dublin.
“We ended up a long way behind Ireland in 2013. It would have been easy to say we aren’t going to get there today. But you have to have good body language and keep your voice calm and be nice and direct with your instructions. That’s when as a captain it really counts. We got out of it that day and a couple of players said whenever I thought we weren’t going to get there, I looked at you and you looked calm. I said, hell, underneath I probably wasn’t but that was the impression you give.”
McCaw often reflects on the 2006 and 2007 team. He said they were a great group of players, but how they managed to win on a regular basis is beyond him.
“I shake my head and wonder because we didn’t really have a grasp on what it was. We would just hit and hope and just turn up. I always said under pressure we were hoping we would be ok. But we changed it to when they heat comes, we would do everything we can rather than hope. That’s one of the things I never wanted to feel again was helpless. I always swore that you would never go down without fighting and keep dealing with the moment in front of you, even if you don’t get there. Just keep working at it.”
Former England skipper Martin Johnson had a big influence on McCaw as a leader. He can recall watching Johnson perform his role so well when they were beaten by England in Wellington in 2003, just before the World Cup.
“A captain sets the tone for the rest of what you are after. They may not be the one that has the voice or all the action, but they set the tone for what you expect. I just remember he [Martin] didn’t do anything different, it was just his body language and he had a big presence on the field. The way he carried himself and spoke to his players had a big influence on the people around him and I always thought if you could go some way to having that sort of influence, then that’s what leadership is all about.”
On a lighter note, Carter reveled what McCaw’s ritual was the night before a Test match.
“My best man at my wedding got up and said right, we are going to start the speech with Richie’s first love, and I thought here we go. But he said ice cream. I love my ice cream. I always found that on a Friday night you had earnt it for the week and it got me ready to go before a game.
“I’m pretty open to anything, but I quite enjoy mint chocolate chip. Apple crumble is usually what we got the night before a game, and I had to have vanilla with that.”
McCaw joked that he had a stern conversation with the All Blacks dietitian where he said the last thing he would be giving up is ice cream. If he didn’t have it the night before a Test, you could blame a bad performance on that.
Part two of Carter’s interview with McCaw will be released on Dan Carter’s Instagram on Thursday.
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