Nigel Owens has rejected the notion that Richie McCaw was penalised by referees less frequently for foul play because of his profile.
McCaw is one of the greatest to have ever played the game, as he captained New Zealand to Rugby World Cup glory twice, and won the World Rugby player of the year award three times.
While he is widely acknowledged for his talents, one of the criticisms that is often levelled at McCaw is that he was allowed to get away with foul play at the breakdown due to his reputation.
Speaking on World Rugby’s Whistle Watch, Nigel Owens rejected that suggestion and compared McCaw to former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Nigel Owens on Richie McCaw.
“What I think you’ll find is that the high-profile players become high-profile players because they are the best players in the world,” Owens said.
“If you’re the best player in the world, like Richie McCaw was, you know where those lines are. You know how far you can push and how far you can go with the referee.
“Remember Man United under Alex Ferguson, when they were so successful everybody was saying, ‘Man United are getting away with it because they’re Man United.’
“No, it’s because you are so good at it people then find a reason to try to knock you down. So McCaw was very good at what he did. Yes, he pushed the limits but he knew when that line wasn’t to be crossed.
“That’s why it didn’t result in a lot of yellow cards for him.”
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) November 23, 2022
The All Blacks have struggled to replace their captain.
New Zealand have been on the decline since McCaw retired after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, as the All Blacks have struggled to replace their talismanic captain, as well as the likes of Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu.
Kieran Read will go down as one of the greats of the game, although the All Blacks failed to win the 2017 test series against the British and Irish Lions and were knocked out of the 2019 World Cup at the semi-final stage under his captaincy.
Things have only got worse for the All Blacks since then, as New Zealand have won just 68 per cent of their matches since 2020.
Man United have suffered an even more drastic decline since Ferguson departed, as the Red Devils last won the Premier League in 2013.