19/11/2015 12:50 GMT | Updated 19/11/2016 05:12 GMT

Truly Exceptional - Richie McCaw

"This is the end of something that has been a big part of my life. I left it until now because I didn't want to to have a foot out of the door during the World Cup. I wanted to make it about the team, not about the individual."

For Richie McCaw it has never been about the individual, it has never been about breaking personal records or becoming one of the most famous sportsmen on the planet. Instead it has always been about the black jersey with the silver fern on it, his team and striving to do justice the honour of being an All Black. 

The statistics that document his international career are staggering and may never be broken. 148 All Black tests, 110 matches as captain, just 2 losses on home soil and 3 World Player of the Year Awards. 

It all started on 17th November 2001 when Richard Hugh McCaw was thrown into the deep end for his International Test debut. The match was against Ireland at Lansdowne Road and although he began the game tentatively he found his stride and was awarded Man of the Match for his performance.

On that crisp Dublin day Nick Mullins was part of the commentary team working the BBC and just a few weeks ago he took to the microphone to voice McCaw's final professional outing, the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final. 

"What is important to remember is where New Zealand were at that point in Autumn 2001, they were in transition as John Mitchell has just taken over after a relatively short spell from Wayne Smith. Even the most ardent All Blacks' fans wouldn't describe it as a vintage team, they were searching for themselves."

"The week before John had said to us to look out of this young kid, as he is going to be special, however it obviously wasn't the first time that a coach had said that ahead of a players' debut."

Indeed for Nick Richie's debut was more noteworthy due to the shoes and jersey that he was pulling on and endeavouring to fill. At that time the All Blacks 7 jersey had a great lineage and it is safe to say that now, after Richie McCaw's 148 tests, the jersey has been further fortified. To the casual rugby fan or observer McCaw's work wasn't always instantly recognised however he was absolutely critical to their success, as Nick describes it 'Richie was that metal bit in an engine that many don't understand however when it isn't there nothing works.' 

Richie McCaw had an unrelenting desire to achieve and an innate ability to motivate and inspire those around him. He was a true leader instilling his side with confidence and character by his sheer presence and of course alone his actions. Steve Hansen's final tribute to his retiring captain says it all;

"In my opinion, he will go down not only as the greatest All Black of all time, but the greatest captain we have ever had and possibly the greatest player to have ever played the game in the modern era."

To play 148 International Tests is an achievement that I don't believe that we will see again in our sport. Richie's longevity defies belief as it was delivered in a position that is so attritional and causes players to constantly put their body on the line. 

"It has been a hell of a journey over the last 15 years. I've been privileged to do what I love for so long. Here's to new adventures." 

New adventures for Richie McCaw include working towards getting his commercial pilot license, he is heavily involved in the Christchurch Helicopters company and I'm sure we all would trust the great All Black to fly us anywhere around the world. 

It says so much about his respect for the All Blacks that Richie never considered donning another jersey somewhere else in the world. Instead the last photograph and memory of Richie McCaw as a professional rugby player is lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time and making history. That in itself is utterly fitting for a man that has broken records and done so in such a professional and humble manner. 

Richie McCaw, like the late Jonah Lomu, deserves his place in the history books as one of the greatest to have ever played our game. He has inspired millions around the world and has left the sport in a better place than when be arrived in it. From this day on the All Blacks will not be the same and one thing is for sure, the man stepping into that 7 jersey has some very, very large boots to fill.