Richie McCaw awarded New Zealand's highest honour
Celebrated All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has sidestepped a knighthood and been awarded New Zealand's supreme honour -- the Order of New Zealand, which recognises the country's "most respected people".
The announcement was made in the country's New Year's honours list which was released Thursday, McCaw's 35th birthday.
After McCaw this year led the All Blacks to World Cup victory, making them the first side to win consecutive tournaments (2011 and 2015), many New Zealanders including Prime Minister John Key believed he was worthy of a knighthood.
However, the champion flanker and three-times world player of year, who has said he would not feel comfortable being addressed as "Sir Richie", has gone one better.
The Order of New Zealand (ONZ), the highest honour in the country's system, carries no title but recognises "outstanding service" to the country and is restricted to 20 living members at any one time.
McCaw becomes the youngest holder of the title, eclipsing former prime minister and World Trade Organisation director-general Mike Moore who was 50 when he was made a member.
Others on the list include another former All Black captain, Brian Lochore; golfer Bob Charles, and former prime minister and now United Nations Development Programme administrator Helen Clark.
One level below the ONZ are the knights and dames who this year include prominent film director Jane Campion, and in a country renowned for an agricultural lifestyle, champion sheep shearer David Fagan.
McCaw, who retired after the World Cup, described himself as "an ordinary boy ... extremely privileged to join the distinguished company of men and women who have been awarded the Order of NZ."
New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew described McCaw as "the most influential player of his generation, if not of all time."
During a 15-year career, he played a world record 148 Tests and only tasted defeat 15 times.
New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey said it was a fantastic accolade for McCaw who has "rightly earned himself a place as one of New Zealand's most respected people."
Fellow All Black Dan Carter and the team's mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka were made Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, who stepped away from international rugby after the World Cup, also received awards.
© 2015 AFP