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All Blacks blessed at No.7: McCaw

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/11/2016 Angelo Risso
Richie McCaw © Getty Images Richie McCaw

He was the first name on the All Blacks team sheet for much of his 14-year tenure but legendary openside Richie McCaw says the No.7 role is a matter of horses for courses.

McCaw, now 35, played a record 148 Tests for his country, including 110 as All Blacks skipper.

In that time he lifted two World Cups and 10 Bledisloes as captain, as well as the World Rugby Player of the Year award three times.

But the former Crusaders No.7 jumper has been hotly contested following his 2015 retirement, with Sam Cane, Matt Todd and livewire Ardie Savea all vying for the role.

Cane has typically served as the incumbent openside when fit, with Savea serving as team super-sub due to his high-intensity style and carrying ability.

Yet McCaw, who was typically preferred by coach Steve Hansen for the full 80 minutes of Tests, felt the decision to go with a Cane-Savea two-punch combo wasn't too much of an aberration.

"At the moment they've got two No.7s they want to have in the matchday squad, so that's how they share that role," McCaw told NZN.

"I guess as captain, it's a bit like Kieran Read at the moment, they're not going to replace him most games so having a reserve No.8 probably isn't what you need."

Savea, who weighs in at 100kg, told reporters on Monday he was struggling to put on the weight necessary to thrive as a Test openside.

Cane, who sits around eight kilos heavier, said he could empathise with the Hurricanes ace given the importance of dominating at the breakdown.

It was this extra weight that gave Cane the edge at selection time, according to Hansen.

The 24-year-old's experience also came in handy, having played 37 Tests, including one as captain.

"The big deciding factor comes down to the physicality that Sam provides, he's a little more physical than the other two, particularly in the tackle," Hansen said.

"It's the old adage, the big strong guy who can do all the things the little guy can do, he's got the advantage because he's just got the size."

McCaw, who weighed in at 107kg during his playing days, was impressed with the depth of talent currently pursuing the openside role.

Cane had stepped into his shoes with aplomb in 2016, before a hamstring injury gave Todd the chance to shine against South Africa and Australia.

The Chiefs co-captain will return to the breach at No.7 against Ireland on Saturday.

"When you look at the three of them, in most teams around the world they'd get a run, so we're pretty lucky," McCaw said.

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