McCaw New Zealand's greatest captain - Hansen

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen says retiring All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is the greatest player to have led the three-time world champions.

McCaw announced his retirement on Thursday, 19 days after lifting his second Rugby World Cup, bringing to an end a glittering career at the highest level.

The 34-year-old earned a record 148 Test caps and skippered New Zealand on 110 occasions, more than any of his predecessors.

Hansen, who has coached the back-row forward since 2004, believes McCaw will rightly go down in history as one of the greats of the game.

"On behalf of the All Blacks, we want to congratulate Richie on everything he has achieved in his career," he told the All Blacks official website. "All this success couldn't have happened to a better bloke and we wish him all the very best for the future.

"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 Tests is something to be marvelled at on its own, particularly with the physical demands of the position he plays. But the more impressive thing about those 148 games is the quality of the performances he produced. Having been involved in the majority of those Test matches, I can't recall him ever playing a bad game."

Hansen added: "His ability as a leader will be something he will be remembered for. Leadership doesn't come to anyone naturally, it's a learned skill.

"After the adversity of 2007 [When New Zealand lost in the World Cup quarter-finals] and the criticism that came with that, Richie's mental toughness and desire to improve really shone through. It's those qualities that have made him, in my view, the greatest leader of the All Blacks of all time.

"He's been an inspiration to us all. Not only has he enhanced the jersey during his time, but he has left a lasting legacy that will be talked about by many people long after we're all gone. It's been an absolute pleasure to have shared the road with him."

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