On top of the rugby world at Twickenham two months ago, Richie McCaw has now been lifted to New Zealand's highest accolade in the New Year's Honours.
The former All Blacks captain, who turned 35 today, has been appointed to the The Order of New Zealand (ONZ), which is confined to 20 living New Zealanders.
Richie McCaw receives NZ's top honour
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Richie McCaw receives NZ's top honour
Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw becomes the youngest person to receive the Order of New Zealand.
A higher honour than a knighthood, it is awarded for "outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity".
McCaw is three decades younger than the second youngest ONZ member.
His elevation came when he was 15 years younger than former prime minister Mike Moore, who was appointed at 50. Moore was appointed youngest of the 18 previous ONZ members. Opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa made it into the elite echelon at 51.
McCaw joins Sir Murray Halberg and Sir Bob Charles as sportsmen so honoured, though unlike them without the title he was so uncomfortable taking on.
He called it "an incredible honour" to have his rugby career recognised in such a fashion.
"To join the list of some truly great New Zealanders is exceptionally humbling," he said, sparing a thought for All Blacks who had helped him shape a career in which he twice captained the side to World Cup victories, 8-7 over France at Eden Park in 2011 and 34-17 over Australia at Twickenham in November.
"I've been so lucky to have played with some truly awesome men and while I receive this award, my team-mates are a huge part of our success over the years.
"I've loved every day playing for the All Blacks and I'm very proud of what we were able to achieve. I just see myself as an ordinary boy from Kurow who has been able to live a dream."
Order Of New Zealand
It's an incredible honour to receive the Order of New Zealand. To join the list of some truly great New Zealanders is exceptionally humbling. To have my rugby career recognised in this way is very special. I've been so lucky to have played with some truly awesome men and while I receive this award, my team-mates are a huge part of our success over the years. I've loved every day playing for the All Blacks and I'm very proud of what we were able to achieve. I just see myself as a ordinary boy from Kurow who has been able to live a dream. The Order of New Zealand honour does not come with a title. I've never been comfortable with titles, it's not who I am. I am however extremely privileged to join the distinguished company of men and women who have been awarded the Order of New Zealand. I hope I can live up to their incredibly high standard of service to their country.Posted by Richie McCaw on Wednesday, 30 December 2015
He was happy the honour did not come with a title, which rugby boss Steve Tew joked meant "he can carry on being Richard to his mother, and Richie to us."
"I've never been comfortable with titles, it's not who I am," McCaw said.
"I am however extremely privileged to join the distinguished company of men and women who have been awarded the Order of NZ. I hope I can live up to their incredibly high standard of service to their country."
Long regarded as New Zealand's finest rugby player, McCaw was also rated one of its best captains. He is the only captain to capture successive titles, and the only one to twice hoist the Webb Ellis Cup.
That came after disappointment in the 2003 Cup and disaster as captain at the 2007 Cup, where the All Blacks were bundled out in the quarterfinals by France.
He retired in November as the most capped player in rugby history with 148 tests and three times was International Player of the Year - 2006, 2009 and 2010. Since his debut in Dublin in 2001, the All Blacks won seven Tri-Nations titles, made three Grand Slam tours and won the Bledisloe Cup eight times.
He was Halberg Awards sportsman of the year in 2011 and 2012, and New Zealand rugby player of the year in 2003, 2006 and 2009.
Tew said McCaw's lofty honour capped a big year for New Zealand rugby.
"While we don't like to single people out it is worth a mention of Richie's honour - he's gone to the top of the tree, for want of a better term - and I can't think of anyone more deserving than he, and I'm sure the rest of New Zealand will join me in congratulating him," Tew said.
"Richie is very humbled as you'd expect, he took a long time to consider what was an appropriate response, because as he always said it's not about him, it's about the team, but I think he recognises that this is something that reflects an era that he has been a very big and important part of and I think he's very proud and very delighted."
McCaw had not wanted a knighthood, Tew said.
"At the end of the day for anyone at that young and tender a age to have a title by your name, when really what he wants to do now is turn back to being a normal New Zealander - which is not going to be easy anyway.
"I think this is an appropriate way of recognising him, he fits in the top 20 and he can carry on being Richard to his mother, and Richie to us."