New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has been labelled the greatest All Blacks player in history after leading his side to successive Rugby World Cup triumphs for the first time. Coach Steve Hansen believes the flanker and fly-half Dan Carter are the best two players to represent their country.
Both players are expected to announce their retirement from international rugby after the Kiwis won a record third World Cup with a 34-17 win over Australia. Carter kicked 19 points, including a momentum shifting drop goal in the 70th minute, while McCaw produced another stellar display while winning his 148th cap.
"I think he [McCaw] is the greatest All Black we've ever had," Hansen said. "Dan is a close second. The only thing that probably separates them is one is a flanker; you shouldn't play 148 matches as flanker. It is unheard of.
"You put your body on the line everytime you play there. There was a lot of talk before the game about the loose forward trio and I think without wanting to be disrespectful to the other [Australia] guys who player really well, our trio won that battle and Richie was the leader.
"We're very fortunate to have players like that. The opportunity will come for someone else to be better than him and Dan. Both of them are great players. With regard to whether it is the greatest team or not I will leave that for other people to say."
Australia coach Michael Cheika was typically magnanimous in defeat, 12 months on from taking over a Wallaby team which was in turmoil on and off the pitch. The two-time champions' preparations were disrupted in the build-up to the game by the leak of a document which outlined specific tactics for the game, but 48-year-old says it had no baring on the result.
"The context and what was in it was no biggy, it was nothing like anything serious or tactics or anything," he explained. "It is a little bit disingenuous.
"You let that situation happen in which you open yourself up and someone focuses on that. But that it how it goes, what are you going to do? It is nothing to cry about. I'll cancel my subscription to The Daily Mail. I don't know if I've got one to be honest, I think my wife has."
Cheka added on the challenge of catching New Zealand, who have lost three of their last 54 tests and won successive World Cups: "We're lucky that we get to play them again in the Rugby Championship so we can keep trying to improve. You have to mark yourself against the best. They have been number one for a while and I think we have made good ground over the last 12 months in that area.
"At the start of the tournament I said to the guys 'this is just the start, we're just starting'. There are some really good things happening for Australian rugby going forward and hopefully by the way we play the game the results will follow as a consequence. The more we test ourselves against South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina and the outbound tours to play the northern hemisphere teams the better we will get."