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Ex-Kiwi openside Josh Kronfeld didn’t fancy Richie McCaw on his All Blacks debut against Ireland

Richie McCaw

Not everyone was convinced by 20-year-old Richie McCaw’s squad inclusion in 2001

All Blacks legend Richie McCaw made his Kiwi debut against Ireland back in 2001. But his selection raised more than a few eyebrows around the camp, none more so than openside Josh Kronfeld who had recently retired.

Richie McCaw

The former Otago number 7 cast doubts as to whether one season of NPC for Canterbury was enough to prepare McCaw for international rugby stating that they were “giving All Black jerseys out too easily”.

“It seems incredible to me that they so easily can put No 7s in … now they’ve got a guy off one NPC season,” Kronfeld said of McCaw’s selection.

But McCaw would have the last laugh and answered his doubters in style. The 20-year-old put in a man of the match performance against the Irish at Lansdowne Road, setting the tone for a historic 148 cap test career.

Richie McCaw

At the time, journalist John O’Sullivan wrote a preview of the game for the Irish Times and described McCaw as bringing a “huge reputation” ahead of the game.

“Brings a huge reputation from New Zealand as an outstanding prospect. A genuine seven, he is the man charged with allowing the All Blacks to play the type of game that coach John Mitchell wants,” he wrote.

Richie managed to be persistent without being overtly dominant, putting in two important and early cover tackles on Brian O’Driscoll. Despite his efforts, Ireland managed to race to a 13-0 lead but it could have much more if it weren’t for McCaw.

The future All Blacks captain forced four turnovers over the course of the game — three at the ruck and one thumping tackle that shook the ball loose from Irish centre Kevin Maggs on a crash ball.

His tenacity disrupted several Irish attacks, whether it was making a well-timed cover tackle or spoiling Irish ball at the ruck. McCaw helped his team arrest a 16-7 halftime deficit to come away with a 40-29 win.

“I think we’ll see more of this lad.”

The then 20-year-old took time to speak after the match and described the game as “a hell of a step up” for himself.

“She was a hell of a game,” he said.

“All the hits were pretty big, in the first 20 minutes they threw everything at us. Everyone talks about it’s a big step up. It was a hell of a step up … the first 20 minutes were gone before I knew it.

Richie McCaw

“I thought, ‘Crikey, I’ve got to do something here’.”

Prevailing All Blacks head coach John Mitchell saw his faith in the young star rewarded.

“We put faith in them from day one, ” Mitchell said.

Richie McCaw

“Richie probably had an indifferent start but it just shows the calibre of the kid, he never let it get to him.

“I think we’ll see more of this lad.”

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